Memo from David O. Selznick
To: Mr. B. P. Schulberg (General Manager, Paramount)
October 8, 1930
I have just finished reading the Eisenstein adaptation
of [Theodore Dreiser's novel] An American Tragedy. It
was for me a memorable experience; the most moving script
I have ever read. It was so effective, it was positively
torturing. When I had finished reading it, I was so
depressed that I wanted to reach for the bourbon bottle.
As entertainment, I don't think it has one chance in a
... Is it too late to persuade the enthusiasts of the
picture from making it? Even if the dialogue rights have
been purchased, even if Dreiser's services have been
arranged for, I think it an unexcusable gamble on the
part of this department to put into a subject as
depressing as this one, anything like the cost that an
Eisenstein production must necessarily entail.
If we want to make An American Tragedy as a glorious
experiment, and purely for the advancement of the art
(which I certainly do not think is the business of this
organization), then let's do it with a [John] Cromwell
directing, and chop three or four hundred thousand
dollars off the loss. If the cry of "Courage!" be raised
against this protest, I should like to suggest that we
have the courage not to make the picture, but to take
whatever rap is coming to us for not supporting
Eisenstein the artist (as he proves himself to be with
this script), with a million or more of the
Let's try new things, by all means. But let's keep these
gambles within the bounds of those that would be indulged
by rational businessmen; and let's not put more money than
we have into any one picture for years into a subject that
will appeal to our vanity through the critical acclaim that
must necessarily attach to its production, but that cannot
possibly offer anything but a most miserable two hours to
millions of happy-minded young Americans.
David O. Selznick
An American Tragedy
The low inspired voice of a woman is heard rising and
falling in the singsong of a chanted sermon. Gradually there
mingles with the voice the sounds of the city and the noises
of the street. The siren of an ambulance -- the anxious
ringing of a streetcar. The characteristic cries of newsboys.
The tooting of automobiles. Gruff music through radio horns.
With the ever-increasing sound of the various noises, views
of the city flash upon the screen. Views that express a
well-defined contrast. The infinite contrast between the
chant of the sermon and the life of the city.
And the woman's voice continues, exalted, speaking of the
harm of drink, of the horror of sin and of the love of Jesus
Christ. A small thin chorus follows the voice of the woman
as she starts singing the 27th hymn:
"How sweet is the love of Jesus."
As yet we see neither the woman whose voice is heard, nor
those who sing with her.
Of the many indifferent passers-by, there are one or two who
listen to the sound of the song.... Persons slow their walk
and look in the direction of the hymn.
A group of curiosity seekers gathered at the corner of a
narrow street, they are busy watching.
The crowd watches pityingly. Various of its members speak of
them in varying ways. Some mock them -- "You'd think they
could find a better racket than this." Others pity them...
Yet others patronise them ....
Finally -- the street missionaries. An old man with thick
grey hair; a woman large, heavily built; and their children,
two little girls and a boy of about seven -- CLYDE GRIFFITHS.
It is they who are singing the psalms.
One woman wishes to know why they drag their children along
with them. And a second woman clinches the comment by adding:
"Better for them to be sent to school." The children,
uninterested, listless, devoid of enthusiasm, their eyes
astray, sing their hymns of praise while their parents try
to gather alms from the little group of curiosity seekers.
No alms are given.
The bystanders disperse, and the missionaries, folding up
their music, pick up their small organ and move away into
the cavernous darkness of the towering narrow street.
Seven-year-old Clyde -- sensitive and ashamed of his
surroundings -- looks no one directly in the eyes.
The family of missionaries moves slowly down the street. "I
think they were kinder today," says the mother.
They approach a dingy low-built odd-fashioned building,
over the door of which hangs a sign Bethel Independent
Mission. The rest of the family disappears within the small
doors of this building and only Clyde remains on the
threshold. He hangs back because street urchins are making
fun of him and his family -- because he irks to answer them
and pay them out for their mockery. But no words come to
him, and with a typical movement he shrinks into himself.
In sorrow, and hurt by the insults, he turns from the
laughing children and runs across a dark and dirty courtyard
towards an old, steep iron fire staircase at the back of the
mission; like some small hunted animal he runs up the
staircase to a platform.
By the platform, crouched on the steps, is his sister,
seated there motionless.
Esta, his elder sister, who played the harmonium on the
street corner, is crouched on the steps; she peers through a
stone gap between the houses onto the street, alive, bathed
in light. Clyde sits down beside her as though hypnotised;
as though enchanted, the children stare at this tiny piece
of noisy life, listen rapt to the sound of an odd waltz,
the strains of which float up from an unseen restaurant.
They look, listen and dream.
And again in the darkness the same feminine voice rising and
falling in the cadences of a singsong sermon. Now Clyde's
mother is speaking of the Life of Man -- the child that
becomes a youth -- and the years that pass and the youth
that becomes a man; and again the darkness dissolves and we
see the favourite nook of the children, but now in their
places are sitting a youth and a young girl. Clyde is now
about sixteen or seventeen years old, and the girl a year
or so older, but the impression remains enchanted as before.
There are more lights on the street, its noises are louder,
its movement more bustling. From the restaurant we now hear
the quick lively tune of a foxtrot, but the expression on
the youth's face has remained the same and there is the same
weary sadness in the eyes of the girl....
In the restaurant is being played the well-known dance the
chorus of which is formed from the hackneyed repetition of a
cry of Hallelujah, and from below, in the mission building,
rise, interrupting the woman's sermon, the same cries but
with another intonation and another feeling -- Hallelujah.
And as the same yet different cries of Hallelujah clash,
the tremendous contrast forms a discordant dissonance that
rouses Esta and the boy Clyde, who start at its sound. They
descend the iron stairs.
Opening the yard door into the mission, they pause just
within it.... The mother has finished her sermon and, with
sincere exaltation and faith, bids her listeners sing the
"If ye have faith -- as a grain of mustard seed,
Ye shall say unto this mountain; Remove
hence to yonder place; and it shall move;
And nothing shall be impossible unto you."
Finished, she asks her followers to sing the chorus.
Clyde is miserable. He wishes to leave. His sister presses
his hand and, though equally unhappy, she nevertheless goes
docilely towards the harmonium. The congregation gets ready
to sing.... They clear their throats -- (cough!) .... They
blow their noses and shuffle their feet.
Clyde, hatred in his eyes, turns his head from the spectacle,
and goes into his own room, slamming the door behind him.
His mother looks up in concerned surprise.
Inharmoniously and out of tune the congregation begins to
Clyde sits down on the bed, hiding his face in his hands.
The mother sings with deep faith and religious feeling.
Sleepily, droningly sings the father .... The congregation
sings hoarsely and out of tune.
Clyde jumps off his bed, grabs his hat, brushes the dust off
it with his sleeve, and leaves the room with decision....
With firm steps he walks past the crowd of singers, and his
anxious mother, continuing to sing, follows him with
surprised eyes. Esta at the harmonium is likewise startled
by his behaviour. Clyde goes out into the street and moves,
firmly resolved, in the direction of Life -- in the
direction of light and movement; and the further away he
gets from the mission the less clearly does he hear the
discordant tune, and the stronger grows the sound of the
street and the brighter grow its lights.
He passes the show windows of a sports-goods store.... The
windows, and glass showcases set out into the street, crowded
by dummy figures of the well-dressed in white bathing suits,
tennis dresses, white golf suits -- brandishing all manner
of sports weapons. Clyde drifts amid the maze of these white
He passes a drug store, where, amidst dazzling shine of
metal and white porcelain, the soda fountain is being
manipulated by a youth of his own age clad in white cap,
tunic and apron. Clyde stops, as a group of young girls,
laughing and joking, take all the seats at the counter. The
youth jokes with them as he mixes his syrups and creams like
a circus magician, flipping his glasses and spoons like a
juggler. Clyde sees that one of the places at the counter is
empty. The young girls smile enticingly, but the fewness of
the copper coins he has extracted from his pocket make him
turn and go in the opposite direction.
Now he passes close to a gasoline station, where boys of his
own age, in white dungarees, are cleaning the windshields of
magnificent cars, filling the radiators with water and
pouring gasoline into the tanks.
His path lies past the bright entrance of a cinema. Boys of
his own age in ushers' uniforms of white, trimmed with gold,
like those of lion tamers, stand there seeming to him more
magnificent and splendid than generals in uniform. Past all
these boys, so beautifully groomed, so proud and self-
assured, slinks Clyde in his little darned old suit, his
haircut as of a day long past, his manner as of a crushed,
Suddenly the sad weariness leaves his bearing, and alert
attention enters his expression.... At first a little
cautious, then musingly uncertain, then resolute, he looks
at a sign glued to the glass pane of the door of a store.
The sign reads Boy Wanted. Clyde is undecided but at last
he takes hold of the doorknob to turn it. The door is
locked, and now Clyde sees a postscript on the sign Apply
before 6 p.m. He looks around him and sees on the clock of
the city hall -- 10.
Out of the mission, straggling, the last remnants of the
congregation are making their way onto the street. Clyde
enters the building, he passes through the hall, there is no
one at the harmonium, the harmonium seat is empty, the mother
is talking to a miserable group of persons about to leave.
The deserted harmonium.
The father preparing dinner.
The deserted harmonium.
Clyde enters his room. Approaching the chest of drawers he
takes out his money box and jingles it next his ear. It is
of papier mâché, a worn child's money box in the form of a
pig; it contains only a few pennies. Now he takes out of his
pocket the money that was insufficient to buy him a soda and
thrusts it, coin by coin, into the slot. As he restores the
money box to the chest, he catches sight of himself in a
mirror, approaches it and scrutinises his reflection.
From under the bed he pulls out an old album with a
collection of illustrated newspaper clippings on which are
represented heroes of the world of sport -- of fashion --
dancers -- entertainments in which girls and boys of his
own age participate. He looks back into the mirror and
compares himself with the pictures.
The mother, a coffee pot in one hand and a mug in the other,
approaches his door offering him his dinner.
Clyde starts at her voice, hides the pictures, and, having
learnt the object of her knock, refuses his dinner. When the
steps of his mother have died away, and the squeak of the
closing kitchen door has reached him, Clyde proceeds with
his strange occupation. He combs his unruly hair, pours on
it some oil out of a bottle, and then parts it like that of
one of the boys in the pictures. He ties his tie into a bow,
and, tearing a little piece of material from the curtain,
tucks it into his breast pocket. When he now surveys himself
again in the mirror, he smiles in satisfaction at the
marvellous change in his appearance.
At this moment comes an anxious knock at the door.
Clyde neither starts nor shrinks in the manner customary to
him. With firm step he goes to the door and he asks what is
the matter without hesitation. From behind the door in a
voice uneasy and trembling, unusual to her, his mother asks
him to let her in. Clyde half-opens the door, and his mother
looks into the room over his arm, asking him whether he has
seen Esta. Clyde is surprised at her question and her manner.
"We can't find her," says his mother.
At that moment enters the father, and, as though confirming
the words of his wife, says that he has hunted through all
the places outside, where she usually goes and he can't
think where she can have got to.
The deserted harmonium.
Clyde dashes into the little room of his sister.... Her
things are in disorder. The signs of a hasty packing.
The parents are speaking of asking help from the police.
From out of the bed in the room next door peep the
frightened younger children.
On the pillow of his sister's bed is pinned a small note.
Clyde finds it. Before he has time to unfold it, his mother
stretches out her hand for it. Having read it, she pales and
"She's run away with someone. I thought she was happy here,
but evidently I was wrong."
Only now does the mother notice the change in her son. Only
now does she notice his changed way of dressing his hair,
his tie, and his grown-up appearance. And Clyde suddenly, in
an unfamiliar voice, speaks. An outburst full of bitterness.
He speaks of the futility of his existence. He says he
wishes to work, but he doesn't know how to do anything
because he hasn't been taught anything. He says his parents
have done nothing for him, not even written to his Uncle
Samuel who has a big collar factory and might have taught
him to work. They haven't even done that. He raises his
voice and says that he won't go on living like this, that
he wants to work and he will work.
While he is engaged in this outburst the younger children
creep out of bed and approach their mother. She drops
wearily into an armchair. Clyde stops suddenly and runs out
of the room. The mother is quiet under the blow of these
unexpected events. She notices the children, puts her heavy
arms around them, and tells them what they should say if
anyone should ask where Esta is. She has left to visit
relatives in Tonawanda. This will not be quite true but we
may say it because we ourselves do not know the whole
truth. Go pray to the Lord and go to sleep.
And in the yard, on the platform of the fire escape,
trembling with emotion at the scene he has just gone through,
Clyde -- now alone-- stands gazing out over the town, the
mysterious town that has swallowed up his sister, where one
by one the lights twinkle and go out.
Dawn creeps up over the city.
And already Clyde stands, in the pale light of the dawn, in
front of the store with the notice Boy Wanted.
The store is not yet open.
Clyde waits and waits, until life begins slowly to waken on
At last the door of the store is opened from within, and a
youth appears, wearing spectacles and clad in a white smock.
Clyde asks him: "Is this where the boy's wanted?"
The youth shakes his head and grins. Clyde, disappointed,
points to the notice. The youth laughs, takes it down from
the glass doorpane and explains that he's the boy that was
wanted; he got taken on yesterday. The fortunate youth
withdraws into the store closing the door behind him and
Clyde, discouraged, sits listlessly down upon the steps.
An angry-looking individual opens the door and comes out:
"What do you want?"
-- he asks of Clyde. Clyde explains again that he wants
work. Crossly, the man replies that he has nothing for him.
Taking a second glance at the boy, he notices his good looks
and offers him a hint: "You look a smart lad. Why not try
the hotel round the block?"
He gives Clyde the name -- Squires -- of the staff manager,
but warns him not to say who sent him, and as Clyde, his
spirits soaring, moves away, the storekeeper calls out:
"But don't give them my name."
Clyde stops at the corner to write down the name Squires. As
he does so we see that he makes orthographical mistakes
indicating the imperfection of his education.
Across a yard into which the hotel garbage is being thrown
and where coal is being unladen for the heating of the
building -- through the door where dirty linen is being
checked into a van and by sculleries where dishes are
being washed, Clyde passes into the office of Mr. Squires.
"We need good-looking boys," says Mr. Squires to a redheaded
youth with freckles all over his face standing before his
"Sorry," says the boy.
"Next." From Mr. Squires.
Clyde, entering the private office, plunges into the midst
of telephone calls, the signing of cheques and forms. Mr.
Squires' every attention is wrapped up in calls and errand
boys. He looks up at Clyde standing there and sees in a
glance all he desires to know about him. He tells him
rapidly the conditions of work, calls a boy and sends Clyde
with him to be fitted for his uniform.
As Clyde takes off his shoes with their patched soles, he is
ashamed of them and of his darned socks ashamed of his
soiled and mended underwear as they take his measurements.
The youth who is his guide looks superciliously at him, and
keeps his eyes fixed upon him, which tends only to increase
The name of the boy is Ratterer.
"You gotta be back ready to start at a quarter to eight this
evening," says the boy.
Clyde's hand is seen grasping the papier mâché money box and
breaking it against the window sill -- the fragments tumble,
and the hand picks up the coins from among the fragments.
Active hands, busy hands cleaning all manner of people in
all manner of ways. Hands stropping, shaving the razor blade
down a soap-buried cheek, trimming the hair with great snips
of the scissors -- hands busy polishing boots with a boot
brush, and the great hand of the city clock pointing to 7:35.
The basements where the hotel boys get dressed, little
elbowroom and plenty of noise. Boys are busily slicking
their hair down -- scenting themselves with a dash of
eau-de-Cologne -- giving an extra shine to their shoes --
tilting their caps at an angle, just so -- and smoking
cigarette after cigarette. In a corner sits Clyde, uneasy
and bashful. He is washed, his hair is cut, he is spick and
span in his new uniform. He is terribly anxious, as a
schoolboy before an examination -- as a soldier going into
battle. Ratterer enters towards him, looks him over
authoritatively with the air of a superior being -- fixes
Clyde's tie, pulls at his uniform -- fixes his cap at the
right slant over his eyebrow and then starts to give him
instructions. Having adjusted Clyde's clothes,
unconsciously noticing him as clean and neat, Ratterer
becomes friendly. He sits there at his ease, his knees
crossed, flicking the ash off his cigarette with a finger of
the hand that holds it. Clyde sits on the very edge of the
bench, his knees apart, striving to control his anxiety.
"In the morning the blinds have to be pulled up -- at night
they have to be let down -- at sundown switch on the small
light and always put fresh water in the closet."
As Ratterer speaks we see on the screen the mechanical
routine of an hotel boy's duties.
A day-boy pulling up the blinds.
A night-boy letting down the blinds.
Ratterer continues: that when the room is ready one can stay
by the door a few moments before leaving, and if this
procedure results in a tip it must be gratefully
and if it doesn't one must show no trace of disappointment
and bow oneself out.
And as he continues we continue to see the illustrations of
And Ratterer continues: that no matter what happens, the
guest is always right, and he adds that, in a good day, if
all goes well, Clyde may possibly make as much as six or
seven dollars in tips.
Six or seven dollars! Clyde is speechless with joy.
The signal bell, and Clyde stands in single file with the
other boys ready for duty .... A second bell and the boys go
through a small door, through which as it opens is heard
penetrating a buzz of voices and the distant music of the
hotel orchestra. The army of boys approaches large gilt
doors and, as these are flung back, Clyde is plunged into
the maelstrom and dazzle of a gorgeous gilt and mirror hall
decorated for a ball.
Immediately by the doors whence he has emerged is a
cloakroom. Piles of rich furs heap upon the counter. A woman
beside him flings back her mantle and emerges from it, white
and naked by contrast. The silks, the exquisite dresses, the
precious stones and elegance bewilder and increase the
anxiety of Clyde.
On the highly polished floor of the vestibule of this hall
stands the file of boys ready for orders.
To Clyde, these are not boys on duty but almost the Guards
at the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. He feels
that this is a parade, at which he will be promoted general
The parade is finished, groups of the boys disperse in their
several directions, Clyde is in a group that sits down on a
long bench waiting for calls.
Barely have they sat down when a bell rings -- from out of a
small window an order is given, and the first boy in the
line runs off to fulfil it.
Bell after bell, order after order, boy after boy -- the
long line of boys keeps moving up as those at the head move
up, returning to sit at the tail when their tasks are
completed. As, little by little, Clyde sees himself
approaching the head of the bench his anxiety grows stronger
and stronger. His movements are more nervous and there is a
bewildered expression in his eyes.
And on the background of the accompaniment -- of bells of
orders being cried out -- of the music from the restaurant
and the laughter of the guests -- occasional fragments of
Ratterer's continued instructions continue to penetrate to
us: "You gotta use the employees' elevator" -- "Even numbers
are on the left of the corridor, odd numbers on the right."
And Clyde approaches nearer and ever nearer to the end of
the bench -- and the bells ring ever more frequently and the
tempo of everyone's movements hastens and speeds. It is his
turn now. He trembles in his anxiety like a race horse at
the "Off". A bell. An order rings out: "Number 500" -- Clyde
dashes up the short flight of steps to the gates of the
elevators on the Bel-étage.
The employees' elevator is full.
At the last moment he squeezes into a neighbouring elevator.
The doors shut to, deadening the sound of the orchestra, the
laughter and noises of the great hall.
The elevator is packed with men in evening dress. Clyde is
wedged into the midst of satin lapels and stiff white cuffs.
The elevator goes up and up, leaving behind it the sound of
the ever receding music. The glitter of the evening dress
suits and the polish of the men only increase the anxiety of
Clyde. The elevator stops. Clyde squeezes aside to let
someone in and then darts out himself.
The doors of the elevator swing to behind him, and Clyde is
left, solitary, in the carpeted silence of a long empty
corridor. At first he runs quickly, but then more slowly for
it seems sacrilege to run on the soft sinking pile of this
He stops before the big double doors of No. 500, brushes his
hands over his hair, gives a twist to his tie, to his cuffs,
"Come in," is heard from behind the door.
Clyde opens the door. It is dark in the room; only one light
shines from behind a screen. A man's hand with money in it
reaches out from behind the screen and a masculine voice is
heard telling him to go buy a pair of garters.
"Pink ones," adds suddenly a woman's voice from behind the
"Yes, sir," stammers Clyde in his confusion and runs down
the corridor towards the elevator.
A Negro boy is in it, guiding the elevator, and together
they start going down. "New?" enquires the Negro. "You'll
soon get used to it," and, learning his errand gives him
directions for finding the hotel shops.
The doors of the elevator slide open, Clyde rushes out. The
doors close behind him.
Clyde is in the shop. The woman behind the counter is
finishing wrapping the garters and hands Clyde, together
with the package, a bill and a ten-cent tip. Noticing his
pleased surprise she tells him that every time he buys
anything there he will receive 10 per cent commission.
Clyde rushes out of the shop. He is lost in the series of
great halls. Through Morocco -- through Venice -- through
rooms in Empire and in Gothic style, through samples of all
the world he hurries frantically. At last he is back in the
main entrance hall, filled with guests in their gorgeous
dresses. He threads his way through the great crowds, and
once again at the last moment manages to squeeze into the
The elevator is crowded with ladies. Amidst the expensive
dresses and perfumes and the nudity of the bared backs
stands the trembling Clyde, his excitement having passed all
A bell. Clyde dives through the bevy of ladies and stops
before No. 500. The door opens, and in front of the
decorated screen stands a man in radiantly glittering
dressing gown. Clyde bends and obsequiously hands him the
package, the bill and the change. The man absent-mindedly
takes the package, puts the change into his pocket, and
screws up and throws away the bill--then he looks at the
garters and then at Clyde. Exactly as instructed, Clyde
stands in the same place, shifting from foot to foot. The
man throws open his dressing gown with a gesture, takes a
fifty-cent piece out of his vest pocket and gives it to
Clyde. Clyde cannot believe it. He is numb with
astonishment. To look at the garters the man turns on the
light, and with the click of the switch the room suffuses
with brilliance, as the glow of happiness suffuses Clyde's
An unknown voice is heard screaming it and a smile almost
of exaltation brightens the whole face of Clyde.
Still louder screams the strange voice, and together with
the cry the orchestra is heard playing a wild, happy march.
As though at High Mass the music peals forth, and the hotel
resembles a mighty cathedral. Like an organ swells forth the
huge proud volume of music and a tremendous chorus of human
voices rends the air asunder behind the whole small being of
the youthful Clyde, clasping in his fists his fifty-cent
And as the screen fades and grows darker, so the mighty
notes of the music grow fainter and their sound slowly
And there rises the image of the poor mission hall and the
sound of its congregations singing psalms.
Clyde runs through the mission hall into his room, closing
the door behind him.
He goes to pick up his money box but it is there no longer.
Only the fragments of it are upon the sill. Then he
unclenches his fist and in the palm of his hand are to be
seen silver coins to the amount of several dollars.
And with the same gesture as that with which the man had
thrown back his dressing gown and given Clyde his first tip,
Clyde now throws back his coat and thrusts the money into
his vest pocket. Then, slapping his pocket with his hand he
looks at himself in the mirror and smiles his first smile.
And together with this first smile are heard from behind the
door the strains of a joyous song such as "Everybody's
It is a morning, and boys are filing through the office of
Mr. Squires. Mr. Squires sits at his desk and each as he
passes lays a dollar on the table, to be greeted sometimes
by a nod. Mr. Squires appears casual, but we can see from
his glance that he is watching carefully to make sure of his
tribute. The little dollar pile grows and Clyde adds his
"Quite at home now, eh!"
-- greets Squires as he pockets the money.
"Yes, sir," replies Clyde and goes.
Clyde goes into the dressing room, smokes a cigarette, and
in a carefree knowing way, dons his hotel uniform. With a
practised hand he smooths his hair, flips the ashes off his
cigarette, ties his tie and laughs at the cracks of his
colleagues, among whom is Ratterer.
A bell is heard, and the boys get into line.
As on the first day, they all go into the hall, but the hall
now no longer seems as grand to Clyde. A morning,
businesslike atmosphere pervades it -- emptiness -- severity.
The tempo of the successive bell-ringings is no longer
frenzied, but slower, deliberate. And as bell follows bell,
there passes before us, in glimpse after glimpse, the
fragments of life as they pass before a bellhop, the moral
face that society presents to him. The boys seated on the
bench are quietly yawning and bored.
Clyde jumps up and runs to the office.
A happy and bright couple of newlyweds ask for a room. The
clerk tells them the number, and gives Clyde the keys. Clyde
takes their luggage and leads them to the elevator.
In the room, obedient to Ratterer's instructions, Clyde goes
through all the necessary operations. He opens the blinds in
the windows, checks the electric bulbs, sees if there is ink
in the inkpot, water in the pitcher, and goes into the
Left alone, the couple kiss.
Obeying Ratterer's instructions, Clyde changes the water in
At the sound of the running water, the newlyweds start and
look guiltily at Clyde, standing in the doorway.
He smiles back in answer to their smile.
A second boy on duty jumps up.
He carefully knocks on the door of another room. "Come in,"
a voice is heard to call out. The boy enters. He is carrying
a large bundle of newspapers
Once in the room he sees through the half-open door into the
bathroom. In the bath, her back to him, sits a woman combing
out her wet hair.
"It's our wedding day today," says the woman.
Her husband grunts unintelligibly in answer, and starts
picking out the papers he wants from the boy.
The woman, seeing a youth, gives a scream. The man laughs at
her fright and hides himself behind the paper with the
callous expression a one who thinks such modesty from her
unnecessary at her age.
A third bell.
A third boy on duty jumps up.
With a tray on which are bottles of soda water he enters the
room. Within it, all is in dreadful disorder. A gramophone
-- empty bottles -- cards -- and from behind the back of an
armchair can be seen the feet of a sleeping man. A woman is
lying in bed and abusing a second man who is pouring a drink
for himself out of a hip-flask. The woman, having said what
she wanted to, turns her back on him.
"Behave yourself," the man says, as he sees the boy enter.
The woman in irritation, to spite him, throws her blankets
off her, sits up and chucks the boy under the chin.
Sensing a quarrel, the man gestures for the boy to get out.
A fourth bell.
A fourth boy on duty, handsome, sunburnt, closes the door
behind him. In the foreground of the room he has entered are
baskets of flowers. He hears a woman's voice, as if calling
out his name. He straightens up, and smiles a knowing smile.
Sitting in an armchair, the woman motions with her hand. On
it are numerous bracelets, rings, and her fingers hold a
long cigarette holder.
The fourth boy on duty approaches her.
Three bells ring one after the other.
Three boys jump up and run off.
In a room stands a woman, who is sobbing in terrible
distress. Mr. Squires is annoyed, he is scolding her as she
packs her things into a trunk. The woman says: "What a fool
I've been -- and he walking straight out like that and
leaving me," and at that moment the three boys enter.
The woman finishes writing out a telegram, and a boy takes
it, then waits for the money. The sobbing woman searches in
her purse and cannot find any money. Mr. Squires takes the
money out of his own pocket and the boy runs out into the
The fourth boy circumspectly leaves the room of the woman
with the cigarette holder, and, folding a bundle of dollars,
hides them in his pocket.
"We can wait two or three days, but you will have to change
your room," Squires motions to the other two boys to take
away the sobbing woman's luggage.
In another part of the room two stout Negro women are
pulling the bedding and table cloths off the beds and
Clyde and Ratterer are going down the stairs carrying trunks.
"You haven't forgotten," says Ratterer, "that we're going
"Oh, no," answers Clyde.
From the room vacated by the deserted woman we can hear the
laughter of the Negro maids, changing the linen.
One of the plump women pinches a bellhop who has just come
into the room.
In the room where they undress, the boys, finished with
their duties, are changing their clothes, and laughing at
one of their number who is imitating the sobbing woman.
Ratterer is biting his lips in anticipation of the
night-out; showing an imitation of the "Danse du Ventre" to
Clyde, comically exaggerating the snake-like movement, as a
sample of what he is to see that evening. "And gee, next
week, Clyde, that will be a time. I know a fellow who's a
gardener and the people there will be away. We can take
their car easy, one of the fellows here can drive. And
we'll get some girls and we will have a time! Don't forget."
Having divested themselves of uniform vests and caps, the
boys are dressing in smart evening dress, hats, fastening
up the fancy bows of their ties, fixing their silk pocket
handkerchiefs, and fastening the laces of their shoes in
extravagant bows. They powder, scent themselves with
eau-de-Cologne, oil their hair, put cigars into the pockets
of their vests and, in such a costume, Clyde looks like an
illustration for a fashion magazine.
At the back of the huge hotel, with merry jokes and an
important stride, a group of the boys goes but dressed up
like men. The group disappears in the darkness.
The window of Clyde's room. Dawn behind the window. And in
the room a lamp is burning and in a sitting position on the
bed, his mother has fallen asleep waiting for him.
Clyde, coming in from the street, cautiously opens the door
to the mission building, over which hangs a sign: How Long
Since You Wrote to your Mother?
On tiptoe Clyde walks through the big empty hall, past the
empty harmonium. He quietly enters his room, goes to the
mirror and studies his dishevelled look consequent in the
riotously spent evening. Suddenly he notices the lighted
lamp, turns to the bed and sees his mother. Her open eyes
seem to have been watching him. But they had been unseeing,
she had other thoughts. Startled, he is confused by
awareness of his appearance, and quickly starts to take out
the bright links from his cuffs.
"Clyde," he hears his mother's voice.
The mother is sitting on the bed, she looks long at him with
strange eyes. Clyde is worried. He hides the bright cuff
links, but the mother remarks nothing about him, she says:
"Clyde, couldn't you help me find some money?"
And her rough, big, coarse hand passes over her face.
"You see -- Esta -- has been left by the man who ... by her
husband.... She is in a terrible plight -- I will sell your
father's ring, then you know -- we have -- a silver jug and
plate -- but it won't be enough."
Clyde's surprise and worry pass. He begins to feel the
superiority of his position. He puts his cuff links back,
and with an intonation which is still humble but has a
different ring in it, promises to find money for his mother.
His mother asks him to add five dollars a week for the rent
of his room, so that with this money she can pay back the
money she has borrowed. Clyde agrees half-heartedly and
makes a sour face.
"You see, mother, I don't earn very much and then I wanted
money rather specially next week," he says.
A luxurious open Packard drives out of a garage. Ratterer,
dressed in smart evening dress, closes the garage doors. At
the wheel sits a boy of about sixteen or seventeen years,
dressed as elegantly as Ratterer. Looking about them, they
turn into an alley where two of their companions (one of
them Clyde) and four young girls, powdered and dressed up,
are waiting for them. They take their places in the car,
and Ratterer says to the boy at the wheel:
"Well, there -- no one saw us -- I told you it would be safe
And, with a grinding of gears, the Packard starts off.
A young girl is sitting on Clyde's knees. She presses close
to him, and he derives from her contact a trembling sense of
pleasure. But Clyde is inexperienced, he is shy. The car
goes rushing by pretty roads, the girls squeal at every turn,
pressing closer to the boys. Time passes. They have gone far.
The sun is setting, and the boys look at their watches.
"We must be getting back now," says Ratterer, "or we shall
be late for work."
And with a risky movement the Packard is headed round.
Looking at his colleagues, Clyde slowly grows more certain
of himself and, seeing how they press the girls closer to
them and boldly kiss them, Clyde embraces his companion who,
helping him, kisses him herself. The car stops at a railway
crossing, letting a long freight train pass by. Ratterer is
nervous and tells the driver:
"Step on it -- there'll be a fearful bawling-out."
When the last freight wagon opens up the road for them, the
car at a mad speed dashes through the evening darkness,
along the wet roads.
The first snow is falling. The wet flakes cover the
windshield and close the eyes of those in the car. At a
street crossing they cannot pass because of the steady
traffic across. It is five minutes to six on the watch. The
boys no longer embrace the girls, they are anxious, nervous,
beat their knees with their hands, twist their watches in
their hands, stamp their feet on the boards, and wait for
the moment to get across the crossing. At the very first
opportunity, at high speed, the car flashes past and dashes
into an alley. At the turning, from out of a corner, a
little girl comes out, and the car knocks her down.
Terrified, the driver, his face livid with fright,
accelerates his speed, and the car, humming like an
aeroplane, dashes past.
"Stop that car" -- "He's killed a child" -- "Stop, stop!"
"Stop them!" Cries and whistles are heard from the alleys,
and, humming ever louder, the Packard goes ever quicker
with its terrified occupants.
"Switch off the lights!"
cries Ratterer, and the driver turns the switch to off.
Without lights, through the dark alleys, the car dashes on.
The sirens of police motorcycles are heard behind them.
Hearing these sirens, the driver pushes the speed up to the
very highest the car can go.
The sirens are heard ever nearer and a group of
motorcyclists come dashing into the camera.
Skidding at a turning, the Packard is thrown against the
pavement, jerks sideways, cuts into a mound of stones and
wooden boards, and, crackling with a loud noise, it turns on
Clyde jumps to his feet, having been thrown out through an
open door, and, trembling with fear and foreboding, looks
around him. The roar of the police sirens approaches nearer,
becomes more and more terrifying. Wiping the blood off his
face, Clyde runs into a narrow alley between tall buildings,
climbs over a fence, over a mound of bricks, runs through a
lot of dust and rubbish and reaches the outskirts of the
town, where the prairie begins. Looking back, he sees,
through the curtain of falling snow, the lights of the city,
hears the roar of the police sirens, the whistles, the cries.
He sees behind him the ruin of his job, the scandal that
cuts him from his home. Clyde trembles and, turning, goes
away into the fields, hiding in the thickly, fast falling
The darkness lightens to disclose the anxious family of
Clyde intent upon a letter.
The letter is the first news they have received from him for
a year. In it he has related something of his difficulties
and fears following the Packard accident, his scraping of an
existence from town to town. Now he is working in Chicago, a
small job and he is sorry he cannot yet send money.
The family is deeply moved. The father stares in front of
him. Clyde's mother pauses, and puts down the letter. She
cannot finish it.
The little girl ends the reading of the letter.
At the end of the letter is set Chicago, the date and the
The letter fades out and we see the city of Chicago and,
resplendent on one of the buildings, is an electric sign.
The sign outlines a collar, a collar gorgeous, in
apotheosis -- straight lines of light, like a fiery star,
like a halo, shoot out around it, bursting and extinguishing
like the opening and shutting of a fist. And ever and anon,
beneath it, shows the illuminated signature: Samuel
The camera pans down, and we see a man with a travelling bag
beside him on the pavement and an umbrella. His head strikes
the background of the lighted collar and over his shoulders
bursts out the illuminated sign: Samuel Griffiths. He is
standing outside a sort of residential club, a hostelry much
more sober of exterior than the hotel of previous reels.
A porter runs up to him, takes his grip away from him, and
follows him through the doors of the club.
Having checked-in for a room, he hands a visiting card to
the clerk. The name on it is: Samuel Griffiths.
Once in his room he rings down, asking that newspapers be
brought him, and, while waiting for them, he looks out of
the window, pondering upon the advertisement of his wares.
A boy comes in with the papers. He offers him a tip, but the
boy, shifting as if embarrassedly on his feet, refuses to
accept the money, saying:
"Excuse me, sir, but are you Mr. Samuel Griffiths?"
"Yes," answers the surprised guest.
"Well, excuse me, sir, my name is Clyde Griffiths. My father
is your brother."
"Oh, indeed!" exclaims Samuel Griffiths, glancing at him
shrewdly. Clyde bears this inspection. He has been through a
good deal. He is thinner and more subdued, but still
sensitive-looking and handsome.
In the corridor an employee of the club, in the same uniform
as Clyde, is vacuuming the carpets. On the stairs, a second
servant in uniform is polishing the brass balusters. A third
servant is washing a large windowpane, through which can be
seen the city, and the advertisement of the collars.
Clyde is standing deferentially before Samuel Griffiths,
who, patronising and seated, is bringing a homily to an end:
"If you want to get out of the rut and be somebody, and care
to come down to our part of the world, I think I should be
ready to give you a chance to show what you have in you and
what you are capable of."
Clyde, but still deferential, thanks him with warmth and
then, hearing a bell in the corridor, hurries out of the
The interior of the Griffiths' household. The family -- his
wife, son Gilbert, and daughter Bella, are breakfasting.
"Well, what is he doing now," Gilbert, displeased, desires
"He serves in a club in the capacity of a messenger boy,"
Mr. Griffiths answers.
"But father says he is very, very much like you, and much
handsomer than any of our other cousins."
"Bella!" -- her mother stops her.
"I still can't understand," says Gilbert, who really has a
strong resemblance to Clyde, only looking a little more
sullen and less docile, "why father takes on people when we
have difficulty in keeping those who already work for us.
Besides I can imagine what will be said when people know
this messenger boy is a relative of ours."
"It is too late now to do anything," says the mother. "He's
arriving, and you had better try to control your rudeness."
Neatly, if inconspicuously dressed, with a small grip in his
hand, Clyde approaches the gates of the Griffiths factory.
The watchman takes him for Gilbert, opens the gates for him,
and greets him:
"Good day, Mr. Gilbert."
"Excuse me, my name is Clyde. But I should like to see Mr.
Gilbert," Clyde answers with an embarrassed smile.
He passes through the gates.
"Well, what do you want?" the secretary asks, without
lifting her head.
"My name is Clyde Griffiths. I have a letter with me from my
And the secretary, lifting her head, does not know how to
act, so surprised is she at the extraordinary likeness of
Clyde and Gilbert, whom she quickly rings on the telephone.
Having heard the answer, she says: "You may enter," and leads
him to a door, with the sign: Mr. Gilbert Griffiths.
And having entered, Clyde sees himself as he likes to imagine
himself. It is Gilbert -- his cousin. Both lose poise at the
Telephone bells ring -- machines are working -- the collars
run along endless bands -- men and women are busy with
different kinds of work -- smoke comes out of the factory
chimneys -- the typewriters click in the Griffiths factory.
The discomfort of Gilbert shows itself in an icy coldness,
the discomfort of Clyde shows itself in a nervousness and
hesitation in speech. The gulf between them has grown wider
with the advance of the conversation.
In Gilbert's office, the conversation continues.
Gilbert: "Father tells me you've had no practical experience.
You don't know accounting?"
Clyde: "I am sorry to say I do not."
Gilbert: "You don't take down shorthand, or something like
Clyde: "No, sir, I do not."
Gilbert: "In that case it will perhaps be best for you to
start working in the shrinking room; that is the department
in which the first stage of the business takes place. By
this means you will be able to learn our trade from the very
Gilbert presses a button, and in answer to it a well-dressed
young woman with a scowl on her face enters.
Gilbert: "And so, good-bye, Clyde. Mrs. Bradley will tell
you all you want to know, and tomorrow you must be at work
by 7 a.m."
And without shaking hands, Gilbert bows officially to Clyde.
Clyde comes out of the factory gates and walks in leisurely
fashion along the streets.
And all at once he finds himself before an imposing mansion,
with bronze deer in the garden and marble lions over the
entrance gate. It attracts his admiration.
"Can you tell me please -- whose house is this?" he asks of
"You don't know? Why that's the home of Samuel Griffiths,
one of our leading citizens."
"Thank you," answers Clyde and, though rendered puny by the
contrast, yields himself to the luxury of reflecting on his
connection, however humble, with this gorgeous family. The
mansion slowly fades in the darkness.
And in the darkness the factory looms roar, and the steam
machinery hisses, and out of the clouds of steam appears
working a perspiring, wet, miserable-looking Clyde.
He seems unable to get the hang of his work. The material
boiling in the kettle keeps falling off his tongs, and
spraying his chest with boiling water; he is despairing,
lost, and helplessly looks around him.
The foreman comes to his help. He emphasizes the name "Mr.
Griffiths," sits by him and starts to explain and show him
how to handle his work. Around Clyde are working experienced
men, their movements are calm and sure. And, after seeing
them, we realise how little suited Clyde is to this work,
how unhandy he is in character, how difficult he finds it to
be in this low-built, stuffy room, among red-hot kettles,
clouds of steam and the roar of the machines.
And when the factory whistle blows, Clyde sighs deeply with
Weary and exhausted he comes into his room and sits down on
the bed. The furnishings of his room express everything that
is dingy and horrible in a boardinghouse existence. No more
comfortable, in reality, than those of his room in the
mission, they differ only in being more oppressive.
A knock at the door, his landlady enters, asks him if there
is anything he wants. She accents his name "Griffiths" in
"There's a letter for you, Mr. Griffiths," she adds, and
hands it to him.
The letter is an invitation.
Ever since your arrival, my husband has been away or busy.
Now, he is less occupied and we should be very glad to see
you if you could come to dine tomorrow, Sunday. We will be
quite alone, no guests. And there will be no need to dress.
Once more Clyde stands before the gate with the marble lions
and the gardens with the bronze deer. But now he feels as
though possessed of the magic key. He brushes his hair back,
flicks a speck of dust off his carefully pressed dark suit,
fixes his tie and rings. A maid opens the door and leads him
to the drawing room.
The room -- filled with different kinds of furniture,
bronzes, candelabras, little statuettes, flowers, covered in
carpets, with beautiful draperies -- amazes Clyde.
He looks about him, and hears the swish of a silk skirt.
The swish approaches. Coming down the wide staircase can be
seen a pair of feet, and the swishing of the silk dress
increases. Mrs. Griffiths is coming down the stairs, a thin,
faded, sweet-tempered woman.
"So you are my nephew," she says, coming up to Clyde.
"Yes," answers Clyde.
"I am very happy to meet you -- welcome," Mrs. Griffiths
greets him in formal manner.
"How do you like our city? We are very proud of our street."
-- begins Mrs. Griffiths to the embarrassed youth. She is
interrupted by the arrival of Griffiths himself, who takes
Clyde in with a penetrating look, and says:
"Well, it's good you came. It means you got fixed up.
Everything was done for you without me?"
"Yes, sir," answers Clyde.
"Well, that's perfect. I'm glad. Sit down, sit down."
The rattle of feet fast descending the staircase, and
Gilbert, in evening dress with a coat on, plunges into the
hall. He speaks to his parents, ignoring Clyde except for a
"Well, I'm going out now, mother," he says in an even voice.
"Are you sure you have to go? You know Sondra Finchley is
coming back with Bella and she wants to see you."
"No, I have to go."
He gives a quick side look at Clyde as if to tell his mother:
You know why I'm dining out tonight, pecks her forehead and
hastily goes out. The signal neither escapes Clyde nor
increases his self-confidence.
Dinner is announced, and Clyde walks with his aunt and uncle
through several large rooms, all satin and mahogany, each
stiffer than the last.
Dinner is not a success. Conversation flags, and Clyde is
painfully uncertain in the various social graces such as
bestowal of the napkin and correct selection of the fork. As
unobtrusively as possible he endeavours to wait for the
example of his relatives, but he is conscious that they are
conscious he is waiting.
Dessert has been reached when there is the sound of a car
drawing up at the door, of the doors being opened and a
burst of laughter and barking comes into the room.
Gaily into the dining room come three girls, and pause in
the doorway. They still wear their wraps, one of them is
Bella, and one, in the centre, holds two wolfhounds on a
leash. The newcomers had checked at the sight of the
stranger, but Mr. and Mrs. Griffiths rise and welcome them.
Mrs. Griffiths explains to the centre figure -- Sondra
Finchley -- that Gilbert is not in, he had to go out, at
which news Sondra makes a movement of annoyance.
Never has so gorgeous a being previously appeared before
Clyde. Her white dress, the orchids on her shoulder, the
straining wolfhounds make her appear as a being from another
world. He of course had risen too, and hovered, partly
expectant that he would be introduced.
But most certainly not.
Perhaps not consciously, but certainly inwardly relieved at
escaping for a moment from the need to entertain him, uncle
and aunt have forgotten his existence. He is supremely
conscious of his ostracism, of the gulf that yet separates
him from such incomparable denizens of Paradise, as he
gazes at this girl, like a firework bursting in the darkness,
like a saint glowing upon an altar. And her figure is covered
in mist, growing thicker every moment, and whirling upwards
in its movement. She is hidden in white clouds, and these
And now they are the cloudy bundles of hot steam coming out
of the factory kettles, and in this steam Clyde is working,
perspiration running down him, and frightened by the noise
of the machines.
Samuel Griffiths, surrounded by his managers and
secretaries, is coming down the factory stairs into the
cellar. He makes a wry face, as he sees how one of the
workmen, bent over the can, is stirring small pieces of
material in the boiling water. The workman has little
strength left, his face is burnt mercilessly as well as his
hands, he groans from his efforts and his pain. When the
workman turns away from the can, and turns to Samuel
Griffiths, he recognises the workman -- Clyde.
Wet with perspiration, in a torn shirt, his chest bare, with
hands swollen and red from the steam -- the nephew stands
before the uncle. The uncle turns his head and sees Gilbert,
who looks so like Clyde, but crimped and elegant.
Embarrassed and not knowing how to act, the uncle goes
upstairs. Entering the director's office, he turns to
Gilbert and says to him:
"We must transfer Clyde to another department. After all he
is a relative of ours and we cannot keep him there. Heaven
knows what people will be saying about us."
Gilbert is abut to disagree. The uncle adds:
"Besides, he looks so much like you."
Gilbert no longer dissents, and taking his hat and coat,
Samuel leaves the office.
In the outer office the telephone rings. The secretary
listens with the receiver, and says:
"I understand. From the cellar department, workman 70 is to
be transferred to you? I understand. Yes, Mr. Gilbert."
The foreman approaches Clyde and tells him to go to the
director's office. Clyde takes off his wooden shoes, his
leather jacket: over his torn shirt he puts on his coat, and
then goes up the stairs.
He enters Gilbert's office. Gilbert, more kindly than
before, tells Clyde that he has given permission to have him
transferred to another department, as he feels he has gained
enough experience in the cellar.
"Instead of fifteen dollars weekly -- you will now receive
twenty-five dollars. My father, your uncle, wishes it to be
Clyde mops the perspiration off his forehead, and his face
Gilbert, as distant as ever:
"We have decided to give you a trial as manager of the
stamping department. The work is easy and does not require
any technical knowledge. But you must show qualities of
character. There are twenty-five girls working in that
department and you are responsible for its moral tone. Our
rules absolutely forbid any relationship outside the factory
with any female employee and we expect you to set an
especially high example by your conduct owing to the fact
that you are related to us. Now you have got your chance, do
not allow yourself to be disturbed by working in the
presence of so many girls."
At the very first words pronounced by Gilbert, his office
disappears from the screen, and in its place we see girls
stamping collars. Slowly they all drop their work, and their
heads become turned in one direction. And as Gilbert's words
are heard, on the screen we see more and more of them, and
the stronger grows their coquettishness, and the more
concentrated their gaze --
And as the gaze of twenty-five pairs of eyes flirtatiously
centres on one spot, we hear Gilbert's voice -- "You must not
get acquainted with these girls, and must never meet them
after working hours. Have you understood all I have told
you? Do you promise to do as you have been told?" And at
that moment all the girls turn.
"Yes, sir," answers Clyde's voice, and on the screen we see
his figure, elegantly dressed and severe.
In a pose of expectation Clyde stands face to face with
twenty-five young girls.
"How do you do?" the chorus of young girls greets him.
"How do you do," answers Clyde.
Springtime. On the ledges of the factory windows coo
pigeons, through the panes a river is sparkling in the sun,
and within the factory is the noise of looms and the hissing
of steam machinery.
Five and twenty girls of differing characters, of differing
types, are working behind long tables stamping mountains of
snow-white collars. One of the young girls throws open a
window -- startled, the pigeons fly away flapping their
wings, and the mechanical noise of the looms has become
softer as its sound loses itself through the open window in
the spring-clad gardens and fields.
As a breath of sweet fresh spring air enters the room the
girls breathe in deeply its freshness and sigh with relief
... They are all young, all in their own way are charming
and pretty ... And the eyes of all of them are constantly
focussed in one direction. Thither, where stands the head of
the department. The twenty-year-old Clyde Griffiths.
He is dressed in a well-cut suit with a smart modern tie. He
is handsome, and that is why the girls' eyes are so often
directed towards him. But Clyde tries not to look at the
young girls. He remembers Gilbert's warning and with all his
strength tries to be indifferent and unapproachable. But the
sweet spring breeze is coming through the open window and
fills the room. The pigeons return to the window ledge,
joyously the looms work on, and because of the spring warmth
the girls open up the collars of their blouses and turn up
their sleeves, but Clyde tries to remain cold and severe.
Noticing the light-heartedness of his workers he goes to the
window and shuts it in order to emphasize his severity. His
movements are clumsy and cramped for he feels upon himself
the gaze of five and twenty pairs of youthful eyes.
One of the girls, Roberta, while watching Clyde, makes a
mistake, stamps the number on the wrong side of the collar.
She nervously approaches Clyde with the spoilt article in
her hand and tells him of her error. Clyde tries to be
serious and reserved. He dares not look into the young
girl's face -- he gives her instructions with face averted
-- but when the girl's naked arms come forward in passing
him the collar he cannot help but lift his head and meet the
shy admiring look of Roberta.
The factory whistle blows. The joyous crowd of girls comes
out of the factory gates, runs up and down the stairs. Some
of the girls are being met by their sweethearts, but Clyde,
looking out of the window, notices that Roberta moves down
the street unaccompanied, alone.
Over the factory chimney in the evening mist a full moon
rises. Alone, Clyde strolls along the boulevard.
Alone, Roberta sits on the river bank.
At the entrance to a cheap dance hall Clyde stops,
hesitating and thinking to enter, but at that moment the
foreman of the shrinking room greets him: "Good evening, Mr.
Griffiths." The foreman goes on his way but his respectful
"Mr. Griffiths" still lingers in Clyde's mind, and it
brings before him the image of the wealthy house of his
uncle with its bronze deer in the garden, and its marble
lions on the gates .... And accordingly he does not enter
the cheap dance hall, but, turning around, moves off.
Roberta is in her room.... She turns off the light and
looks out of the window at the smiling spring moon.
And Clyde is sitting at his window sill and likewise looks
at the same moon as it gently hovers over the chimneys of
And again the machines beat. Once again five and twenty
young girls are busy stamping collars ... Again the girlish
eyes embarrass Clyde. It is hot in the building. From the
heat and the sweat and the thickness of the air, everyone is
filled with languor and weariness, languor is in the heat of
the machines, languor fills the eyes that grow more amorous
and Clyde with greater difficulty holds himself in hand; and
when suddenly his gaze meets that of Roberta he does not
lower his eyes but smiles, in a sudden unexpected smile. And
to his smile answers a smile of Roberta.
And the machines beat on. And in their work the girls' hands
flit to and fro, and on the bench float mountains of
snow-white collars, and more and more often Clyde's eyes
meet Roberta's. They meet in those moments when the other
girls are not looking. They steal seconds from the quick
tempo of factory work and, accompanied by the dull roar of
the machines, the monotonous beat of the stamps, the
hissings of the steam, their gaze speaks a dumb language
miming the sympathy reciprocated.
The heat of the sun grows stronger. It is hot in the
building .... The girls languidly speak of young Clyde and
build fantastic tales around him and his wealthy relatives,
tales of his imagined luxurious life, the while Roberta
listens, looking with pride and affection at his handsome
figure, and flashing a happy smile at him at a convenient
And on the white ceiling, and on the whitewashed walls of
the factory the sunlight plays in bright pools reflected
from the river. These pools of light leap and dance to the
sound of the machine in quick rhythm and fantastic
composition, and then slowly the noise of the machines dies
and in the water we see the calm surface of a lake on which
is reflected Clyde as he comes rowing in a skiff.
And on this body of water the same exquisite rays of light
dance their way. Also on Clyde's face, and on the sides of
his little boat, just as they did on the walls and ceiling
of the factory.
Boats pass by with couples in them, with singing, with the
strumming of a banjo, or guitar, and through this atmosphere
of love Clyde drifts along alone and lonely. His boat drifts
slowly along through the tangle of water lilies, quite near
the shore. And on the shore, at the very brink of the water,
stands a young girl; her hat is off and she is admiring
Clyde stops rowing and watches her. And when the boat comes
abreast of her she lifts her head and Clyde sees her smiling
"Miss Alden! Is that really you?"
"Why, yes. It's me," smilingly answers Roberta, but she is
startled and seems a little afraid.
"Are you spending the day here?" asks Clyde. And noticing
that she is watching the water he adds: "Would you like some
of these flowers?"
"Oh, yes," answers the girl and looks surprised.
The dark hair of Clyde is wind-blown, he wears a sports vest
short-sleeved and open at the neck, and one of the oars is
lifted high above the water. All this makes the girl inwardly
tremble, and in order to cover her confusion she gives him a
She looks out onto the lake and sees a boat pass by in which
are sitting a youth like Clyde and a girl like herself ....
And all over this lake similar boats drift by and in each
one of them are just such identical couples.
"Oh, please take a seat in the boat," she hears Clyde invite
"Why yes, only I have a friend with me here and besides it
might be better for me not to, it may not be quite safe."
"Oh, but of course, it's safer to sit on dry land,"
laughingly Clyde answers her.
Boat after boat... Couple after couple ... Song after song
float down the water past them. And, suddenly anxious,
Roberta cries out:
"Grace, Grace. Where are you?"
From the woods in the background a voice is heard answering:
"Hallo. What's the matter?"
"Come here, I want to tell you something."
"No, you'd better come here. There are marvellous anemones
"You know what we'll do? We'll row down to where she is.
What do you think of that?" asks Clyde.
"Why yes, certainly," answers Roberta, and suddenly bashful,
in concern, once more asks him:
"You're sure it's safe?"
Roberta jumps into the boat and Clyde helps her so that she
shall not fall.
"Do you know, I had just been thinking of you .... I had
been thinking how nice it would be if we were rowing
together on this lake."
"Is that true, Mr. Griffiths?" Roberta wants to know.
And Clyde, shyly reaching forward, strokes her hair.
"Don't!" Roberta says, frightened, and becomes more
reserved and colder towards him.
And, together with a crowd of other boats, their boat drifts
along among rushes under the shade of thick-leaved boughs
into nooks by the shore.
And along the water's edge are heard youthful songs the
chords of guitars .... And the sun begins to set. Evidently
Roberta feels cold for she has come to sit next to Clyde....
Evidently he has not noticed how their boat has become
tangled in the rushes and that they are now left alone....
And, as in the hotel, on the long bench of waiting bellboys,
Clyde was filled with trepidation, so now once more he is
filled with trepidation, from the fullness of his youth,
from the presence of the young girl by his side, from the
secluded nook ... And he kisses her. She tears herself away
from him, frightened, saying:
But Clyde, made happy by his daring, excited by his conquest,
smiles as he smiled that day when he earned his first money,
and heard that grand music, that majestic -- swelling --
hymn in the hotel. And the echo of that music rises in the
tune of a dance hall distant on the other side of the lake.
And paying no attention to her exclamation, to her fright
... at the sound of that conquering march he turns his boat
to the shore where Roberta's friend is waiting.
Forgetting all, forgetting where he is and what he is... he
wanders through the woods and across the fields, through
streets and alleys, walking to the tempo of the ever
swelling march ....
And when he has shut the door of his room, he speaks quietly
but exaltedly: "To live! To live! How good that is."
No longer does the river glisten behind the factory windows.
The long factory windows are closed -- to shut out the cold,
Silently the girls go about, stamping their endless train of
collars. Silently, with concentration, Clyde is working in
his little office. No longer do Roberta's eyes and his meet
in affectionate understanding -- they are like strangers --
at least as such they conduct themselves.
The factory whistle....
From out the gates, the hands make their way ....
In the jostling crowd, Clyde and Roberta come face to face
with each other, but they do not wish to acknowledge each
other's presence. They look past each other. And they
separate, each going his and her separate way....
Clyde to the right....
Roberta to the left....
The gates of the factory close....
And its lights are turned out....
The tower bells play in the evening air and the street lamps
light up one after the other....
And when one of these lamps goes on -- it throws its light
on the shivering figure of Clyde. He lowers his hat over his
eyes, and walks into the mist.
He is waiting -- back and forth by the railing he walks,
wrapping himself tighter in his coat to save himself from
the severe gusts of cold wind.
Into the light of the lamp Roberta enters. She carefully
looks around her.
Clyde calls her by a tender intimate little name.
He gives a peck of greeting on her cheek. Not because he is
indifferent but because he is still shy and respectful. He
kisses her once more and whispers to her.
When, across the pavement, the figure of some passer-by goes
past, they stop their love-making and press against the dark
corner, remaining motionless until the figure has
"It's getting very cold," Clyde says. "I don't know what
we're going to do. Isn't there some place where we could sit
"Couldn't we go to a movie or a cafe?" asks Roberta.
Clyde shakes his head and answers: "They might see us."
Another passer-by. Once again they stand still in their dark
When the steps of the stranger die away, a new gust of wind
makes Roberta and Clyde shiver from the could and he says:
"What do you think? Couldn't we go to your room for a little
"No, no, no, that wouldn't be right." Shaking her head and
frightened, Roberta answers him.
Clyde takes out his watch and lights a match -- 11.30.
"No, no, we might be seen," continues Roberta.
But Clyde is excited and resolved. He links his arm through
hers and together they go down the street towards her home.
Roberta begs him not to come near her house but Clyde is
insistent and stubbornly leads her towards it.
"I can't see why we shouldn't go in out of the cold."
"No, you oughtn't to come in, Clyde. It may be all right in
your set, but I know what's right and what's wrong, and I
don't want it."
Clyde's face sombres and Roberta looks at him, scared at her
own firmness. The tense minute-long pause is broken by the
hysterical bark of a little dog.
Clyde: "If you don't want to let me come in and sit down a
few minutes ...."
Roberta: "Oh, it isn't that, but I can't. I'd like to but I
can't. You know it's not right," and she puts her hand on
Clyde shrugs his shoulders, turns away and says "Well, all
right, let it be so, if that's how you want it," and he
makes a movement with his shoulders throwing off her hand.
"Don't go away. I love you so Clyde. I'd do anything for you
I could," and she embraces him.
"Yes, yes," roughly answers Clyde, and tearing himself from
her embrace he goes off into the darkness. And at that
moment someone kicks the little dog and it gives out a long
Roberta, bewildered at his departure, cries out loudly to
him in despair: "Clyde, Clyde!"
But he does not turn back.
Filled with despair the girl, not knowing what to do,
remains standing stock-still in the same place.
Clyde has not stopped. Quietly the door of the house opens
and a woman looks out inquisitively while her hand pushes
the wailing dog away.
Further and further away, fainter and fainter, Clyde's
footsteps are heard disappearing.
"Don't leave me," Roberta cries out to him in a voice full
of tears. Then she runs after him. But after running a few
steps she stops and, frightened, looks around her. The
footsteps are no longer to be heard, nor the dog's wail.
Roberta feels weak, she sits dawn, sobbing, upon the ground.
One by one the street lamps fade and her sobbing grows
Rain lashes the factory windows -- The looms beat harshly
and unpleasantly -- Heavily hisses the steam machinery --
And even and anxious in the hands of the girls is the sound
of the stamp as it falls.
Pale, Roberta is working nervously and uncertainly.
Motionless, Clyde sits over his papers.
It is no longer cosy in the stamping department. It is bare
and empty.... Not many hands remain.... Little merchandise
.... Empty tables.... Empty shelves.... And that is the
reason why the sound of the machines is so unpleasantly
Rain falls behind the windows.
Roberta tries by every means to catch Clyde's attention, but
she herself does not look at him.
There is an increasing nervousness in her movements and an
increasing number of mistakes in her work. She is nearer and
nearer to complete despair, and suddenly she sees --
Clyde is smiling to the other girls.
Clyde is flirting with her neighbour.
Her head is spinning. The roar of the machines fills her
ears. The beat of the motors is as fast as the beat of her
heart. She is unable to hold out.
She runs off to the girls' rest room, where, on a little
piece of paper torn from off the table, she writes a note:
And they go to her home.
As they come in together, she switches on the light and it
floods the dingy parlour that is her apartment.
"Oh, this is nice," says Clyde. "I never thought it would
be so cosy." She takes off her coat. "We'll have a fire in
a minute," she says and kneels to adjust the coals before
setting light to it. He kneels on the mat to help her.
They are close together. So close their elbows touch. She
half turns. He lets his head drop on her shoulder and raises
his hand to stroke her hair. Putting her arm round his neck,
she presses her lips to his head and then speaks: "Dear...."
And when in their embrace the two young bodies come into
contact and the hands grope for one another in a sudden new
desire, that majestic music that Clyde hears in the happiest
moments of his life bursts forth once again. And when they
stop their kisses for a moment, behold, the ceiling of her
little room has opened to the heavens and so have the walls.
Marches of victory.
Hymns of happiness are rending the air asunder. And they no
longer know where they are because fantastically beautiful
but absolutely incomprehensible things crowd in upon them,
and they laugh a young and infectious happy laugh. And while
the fantastical compositions with the underlining of music
change from one to another, her voice, in an anxious whisper,
is heard to say: "But never, never! If anything should
happen... You won't leave me?" And Clyde likewise in a
whisper, answers her: "Never -- I'll never leave you."
And again they are standing facing each other at the door of
her little room; now they are saying goodbye, and once again
Clyde repeats: "I will never, never leave you."
Kissing her before he leaves, he goes out into the street.
But still Roberta's face holds traces of anxiety as, through
the window, she watches his disappearing figure.
And for the first time Clyde walks off like "a real man."
His head is proudly held up and his hands thrust deep into
the pockets of his coat.
He passes by a big luxurious automobile.
"Hallo! Are you walking?" he hears a voice. "If you like I
can give you a lift." Sondra Finchley is saying these words,
looking out of the window of the automobile.
Clyde turns away.
Sondra, astonished, says, "Oh, excuse me. I thought it was
"I beg your pardon, it is I," he answers, taking off his hat.
"There's no need for excuses, I'm very glad to see you.
Please get in and let me take you wherever you are going."
He would like to leave and takes a few steps backwards, but
Sondra, desiring to cover the mistake she has made, insists:
"But do come, Mr. Griffiths."
Embarrassed he goes to the car and sits beside her.
At that moment the chauffeur returns with a package and she
asks Clyde where she can take him.
The car makes its way quickly along the road. "I didn't
realise that you were mistaking me for my cousin," Clyde
says in his embarrassment.
"Don't speak about that any more. Tell me rather why do you
never go any place?"
"I'm working in the factory and have very little time,"
Sondra's conversation, flirtatious and flippant, ends in her
promising Clyde to get him an invitation to a dance that is
to be attended by the very best society of the town.
The beauty, charm, dress and manner of the rich girl
overwhelm Clyde with admiration and he cannot take his eyes
off her all the ride long. And Sondra, looking at him,
notices his charm and good looks. They smile at each other,
but at that moment the car comes to a stop at the corner of
The chauffeur opens the door of the car and Clyde steps out.
"Till soon," answers Sondra in reply to his thanks.
And the car disappears behind the bend.
Clyde remains standing still on the empty street and listens
to the ever fainter noise of the car.
"Mr. Griffiths," he hears once again the name as she
pronounces it. "Griffiths", repeats Clyde to himself,
standing there frozen between embarrassment and a new pride.
Hands are fastening the laces of patent leather shoes --
then the same hands lift higher, dusting an almost invisible
speck off the crease of the trousers -- then higher still,
as they button a black dinner vest. At last they give a
final twist to the black bow tie, and in all the glory of
his new tuxedo, drawn to full height, we see the figure of
proud Clyde, polished, smartened and finished by Roberta.
Now she is giving a final comb to his hair. As she lays
down the comb she says: "If I can't keep you all to myself,
if I must share you with the Griffiths, I'll make you as
beautiful as I can."
She helps him on with his coat and white silk muffler, hands
him his brand-new silk hat, and escorts him to the door. As
she hugs him in a kiss: "You'll think of me tonight, won't
you dear?" she says. He is gone.
The first snow of the year is falling, and Clyde, to protect
his new suit, opens his umbrella.
He pauses beneath a lamp, takes a card from his vest pocket
and rereads the text:
The Now and Then Club
Will hold its First
Winter Dinner Dance
At the Home of
135 Wykeagy Avenue
On Thursday, November 4.
You are Cordially Invited
Will you Kindly Reply to Miss Jill Trumbull.
It is to this address he is going, not to the Griffiths.
Turning it over, Clyde rereads a note written on its blank
Dear Mr. Griffiths:
Thought you might like to come. It will be quite informal.
And I'm sure you'll like it. If so, will you let Jill
Having read the note, Clyde tucks it away carefully in the
pocket of his vest and resumes his way.
Past the amazed inhabitants of the poor quarter, Clyde walks
beneath his umbrella, filled with pride and self-
Handsome-looking cars stand before the entrance to Jill
Trumbull's home. A group of chauffeurs, chatting among
themselves, make room for Clyde to pass through.
He rings at the front door. Behind it can be heard happy
laughter and conversation. The door is opened. The servant
takes his hat, coat and umbrella from him and, once inside,
Clyde finds himself face to face with Jill Trumbull.
"I know you. You're Mr. Griffiths. I'm Jill Trumbull."
-- and on this they shake hands.
"Miss Finchley hasn't arrived yet, but I'll do my best as
hostess until she comes."
She leads Clyde through several rooms, introducing him to
various girls on her way. "This is Mr. Clyde Griffiths, a
cousin of Gilbert Griffiths, you know." The girls, who are
speaking to attendant swains or otherwise engrossed, nod and
smile politely with a -- "How do you do" -- "So pleased to
meet you," and turn back to their companions, completely
Finally, guided by Jill, Clyde arrives at a big fireplace at
the end of the room where stands, resplendent in white
waistcoats and tails, a group of unoccupied males. Here,
with another muttered introduction or two, a little laugh
and an "excuse me" she leaves him to return to her welcome
of other newcomers.
Clyde stands on the rug in front of the fireplace. Beside
him on the rug stand the males, tall, wide-chested and
stiff, their hands behind their backs and their feet
separated. They survey him dully, while he endeavours to
control his nervousness.
Into another room, adjoining at some distance by wide-opened
doors, Sondra enters in a dazzling white dress. Her entry
causes a stir, Sondra is always a centre of movement. "Is
Griffiths here yet?" she asks eagerly.
Through the intersecting doors Clyde can be seen on his rug.
He shifts about nervously, the stiff society young men are
reminiscent of the maze of society dummies in the glass
window cases between which, earlier, he drifted.
Sondra calls Jill and her friends to her. "He's presentable,
isn't he?" she says. "He's better-looking than Gilbert. We
must take him around a bit. Gilbert will be furious. Oh,
what a lark!" A rustle of silks and satins, gay approval and
the group starts laughing forward.
Clyde looks up. Across the room he sees Sondra advancing,
more beautiful and resplendent than ever. He feels a thrill
at her approach.
Sondra greets him and surrounds him with a bevy of girls,
who have crossed the room in her train. He is at once the
centre of the whole group. All are eager to cultivate Clyde,
the idea of spiting someone else through him appeals to
"We shall have the first and the eighth dances," says
Sondra with authority. "And I want you to dance with Jill,
Betty, Clara...." naming several of those around.
The strains of the first foxtrot are heard coming from the
ballroom and Sondra leads him to the floor for the first
The orchestra plays rapidly; embracing Sondra, adoringly
but gingerly, as if he held something too precious to be
real, Clyde allows himself to be swept into the dance among
the crowding couples.
Rapt by the rhythm, he is beginning to stammer his
appreciation to Sondra, when she gently disengages herself
and he is swept up, first by one of the girls whom she led
to greet him -- then by another --
-- from one to the other he is swept, dancing with each a
bare moment. Snatches of their conversation reach us. His
partners pretend a roguishness. One: "You're better-looking
than Gilbert." Another: "I saw you going into the
confectioner's on Central yesterday. Were you getting
something for your girl?" (This one alarms him.) And another:
"Sondra thinks you're handsome." (Clyde thrills.) "She told
us she means to see a lot of you."
And once again Sondra is with him. The jazz continues.
The jazz diminishes and dies.
In the factory rest room. A gust of giggles. Roberta is
taking down her coat from a peg. The other girls, also
preparing to leave, are laughing and gossiping. "No wonder
Mr. Griffiths looks tired. I'll bet they stay up late at
those parties. Dancing night after night." Roberta starts,
and, concealing her interest, asks a question: "Don't you
never read the papers? Why those young society people all
went to two dances last night, on from one to the other.
And they had Mr. Clyde's name down," is the answer. Roberta,
the gossips turned aside, glances at a note crumpled in her
hand: Dear, I have to dine with my uncle again tonight.
You understand, don't you. Her fist grips round it. She
bites her lip, her face is white.
And the music of the dance begins to rise again.
Clyde is still with Sondra. The growing band music rises
abruptly to sound ever faster and more gay, now fortissimo.
To the fortissimo of the band, he whirls into a poem of the
days that follow. A poem of dancing, laughter, joy. A poem
of loving glances, smiles, hinted caresses. A poem of
Sondra's gorgeous wardrobe. Today she is clad in black silk,
tomorrow in fluffy white, or again in glittering silver. And
always Clyde is dancing with her. Or they sit on a couch, or
they stand in a glassed winter garden, or they dance
together in a lighted ballroom or in an intimate club. And
as their poem of love progresses, its rhythm becomes ever
happier, with the happier tempo of the music and the
increasing brightness of the light.
In his top hat, in his muffler, in company with a wealthy
youth and girls, Clyde is passing, in a luxurious car,
through the streets of the town. With a wave of laughter
the car stops under a street lamp at a corner, and, excited,
dishevelled, Clyde jumps out. Another burst of laughter and
the car disappears.
Clyde turns the corner and sees a light in Roberta's room.
Sighing wearily, Roberta drops onto the bed.
Clyde, standing on the porch, starts to push the outer door,
Quietly Clyde enters Roberta's room. She turns a tear-
stained face to him. "Clyde, where have you been? We haven't
been alone together for weeks. What has happened?" Clyde
feels uncomfortable, so makes a show of irritation. "I told
you, I've had to go to see my uncle. You know what it means
to me. You know I can't possibly refuse." Suddenly,
unexpectedly, she jumps up, grabs a bundle of newspapers and
turns towards him. "You're lying to me, Clyde." With
difficulty keeping back her sobs, she shows Clyde the
chronicle of his social life. One, two, three balls, more
-- and in each among those present appears his name.
Scared lest they wake the family of the proprietors, they
quarrel in whispers. Whispers of passion, but now not of
"You were with Miss Finchley," says the girl, and this
drives Clyde to lose his head. He runs up to Roberta, takes
hold of her shoulders and brings her face nearer to his,
looking straight into her eyes.
And, seeing his face, his dear face, so close to her own,
Roberta involuntarily forgets his neglect, and the old joy
and tenderness for him appear in her expression.
And as the familiar charm reawakens, Clyde, instead of
striking her or scolding her as he had intended, kisses
Roberta. And when she throws back her head it seems to him
as though he is being held in the arms of Sondra. His
fingers clenched in her hair, with new strength and new
passion he kisses Roberta.
From the street we see the light go out behind Roberta's
window. Nearby, from some source unknown, the laughter of a
little child is heard in childish glee.
Once more the noise of the looms in the factory, the hissing
of the steam machines, and the sound of the stamps marking
It is dark outside and the electric light is searing. It
outlines sharply unusual shadows on the faces of those
Roberta at her worktable is pale, sad and anxious. She
watches Clyde, striving to catch his eye. But Clyde will not
look at her.
Roberta takes a torn slip of paper and writes upon it a
Clyde, I absolutely, absolutely must see you today.
Please come to see me after work or meet me somewhere. It
is essential. Roberta.
Taking a basket of collars she passes by his desk and,
unseen by the others, throws him her note.
As Clyde finishes reading the note he sees Roberta's face,
nervous and full of anxiety. With a slight nod of the head
he agrees to meet her. He glances at a memorandum pad on his
table, inscribed: 10th January, Dinner at the Griffiths, and
once again nods to Roberta.
Slowly the noise of the machines dies and the jigging melody
of an old-fashioned dance fills the air.
Clyde and Sondra are dancing one of those old-fashioned,
rapid jig-time dances in which everyone has to take part
together, and which consist of circles and pairs. A
Christmas tree and Christmassy decorations are in evidence.
To the sound of handclaps beating with the music, Clyde --
now in tails -- and Sondra advance, jigging, towards the
centre of the room, and circle hands on hips and back to
back in one of the figures of the dance.
By the walls a group of old ladies, made-up, powdered,
overdressed, scrutinise Clyde and criticise his manners and
success in society. They say that the Griffiths have started
receiving him only because it became impossible for them not
to do so when he was received by everyone else. Their smiles
at the Griffiths' discomfiture are vinegar.
To the merry, frantic children's tune, Clyde and Sondra
whirl round in the frenzied closing figures of the dance.
The music stops with a burst of laughter. Clyde and Sondra
run out into the hall and throw on their wraps and coats.
Outside the snow is pouring down and is slushy underfoot.
Cars move away from the entrance.
Sondra and Clyde are in a car together. Sondra is driving.
The car pulls up outside her house. She looks at him through
half-closed lids and proposes: "Why don't you come in, Clyde.
I'll fix you up a cup of hot chocolate before you go home.
Do you like chocolate?" "Oh, yes," says Clyde.
The kitchen amazes Clyde by its luxury, its cleanliness, the
glitter of its copper dishes and the large Norman-style
fireplace with bright logs burning in it. And Clyde says,
spontaneously and sincerely: "What a marvellous kitchen!"
"Do you think so? Aren't all kitchens the same?" Sondra asks
as she busies herself with the chocolate. She also looks
around the walls of the kitchen and brings her gaze to a
stop before the closed dresser. Having thought for a moment
she goes to the dresser and opens wide its little doors.
An arsenal of crystal and silver services. Tumblers and
goblets that amaze Clyde by their number and glitter. And
Sondra picks out the handsomest tumbler for chocolate,
pouring the chocolate out of a jug into the tumbler, she
sits down beside Clyde, near the fireplace, and says: "Isn't
it cosy here?"
"It's very lovely with you here, Sondra," says Clyde.
"I'm pleased you're satisfied," Sondra answers smiling
tenderly, and each notices the good looks of the other and
both keep silent, not knowing what to say or what to do.
"You've been very anxious to tell me something," Sondra asks
in a very low voice.
"I'd like to tell you a lot, but you forbid me to."
"I know what you'd like to tell me." Both get off the bench
and he takes her hand in both of his. Clyde looks at her as
a faithful believer would look at a holy relic and under
this gaze she lowers her eyes and Clyde, who has never done
so before, puts his arm about her and kisses her.
At the moment of this kiss the silver seems to glitter
dazzlingly on the open dresser -- the burning logs crash
throwing up sparks like fireworks, and for a few seconds
Sondra allows herself to be embraced. Then she gently pushes
him away without any anger and smilingly says:
"Now you must leave, do you hear?" "Are you angry?" asks
Smiling, she shakes her head: "It is very late."
And Clyde makes a gesture with the hand, as does a
sportsman answering the ovations of a many-thousand crowd.
The handsome crystal tumbler stands on the table filled with
the untouched chocolate.
With a firm tread, humming the melody of that "hymn of
happiness", that same melody which passes as a theme motif
through all his happy days, Clyde walks down the street,
already deep in snow, smiling to passers-by. The snow is
whirling down and pouring, a frenzied whirling blizzard.
He carefully enters the porch of Roberta's home and knocks
at the door. The door is immediately opened and Roberta,
still dressed in her day-dress, lets him into her room.
Her face is so very sad and frightened that it makes Clyde
scrutinise her closely. "Do you remember, Clyde, you said
that if ever a misfortune happened to me ... you would help
"A misfortune?" asks Clyde, and he sees how Roberta sits
down on the bed lifting her hands to the waist of her dress.
And again from some unknown source is heard the mocking
joyous laughter of a child.
A druggist's sign. The show window of a drug store. In it,
among the array of medicine and bottles, the cardboard
cutouts of nurses' figures and happy feeding children; this
is an advertisement for milk, that for purgatives or candy.
Hanging over the glass of the drug store doors, a bright
illustrated sign of a naked little boy and his sympathetic
father. Looking through the window is a nurse and her
little charges, the children laughing, their attention
caught by a gaily-coloured advertisement.
And at the entrance to the drug store stands Clyde,
uncertain and embarrassed. He looks through the glass,
trying to inspect the clerk behind the counter, and he
-- a woman stands behind the counter, a saleslady.
Clyde grits his teeth, looks around him, and crosses the
road, stopping at another drug store. Looking inside, he
sees a man. Trembling with anxiety, he enters, and at the
same time through the radio loudspeaker is heard a song sung
by children in a treble. Through the window we are able to
see Clyde approach the counter, take off his hat, and,
embarrassed, ask something of the druggist.
And as Clyde's embarrassment increases, so does the volume
of the children's voices increase in the song over the radio.
The druggist having listened to Clyde, shakes his head, and
Clyde comes out onto the street. And at that moment, as
Clyde opens the door of the drug store, the radio children
finish singing, and are heard laughing over something in
With quick steps, Clyde crosses past some little knots of
children playing on the street. He stops at yet another drug
store, and looks in through the window.
A grey-haired, bewhiskered man is sitting there reading the
newspaper. Next to the drug store is a phonograph shop. In
its show window are cutouts of children and dogs listening
to a record. And, within the shop, a record is being played
of a child's recitation, touching and yet at the same time
Turning away from the window, Clyde enters the drug store
While the child's voice from the radio shop continues
declaiming how it loves its father and its mother, the
sunshine and the forest, Clyde once again takes off his hat,
bends over the counter, and he repeats his question to the
elderly man. And we see the greyhaired man grow angry, wave
his hands about and raise his voice at Clyde; what he says
we cannot hear through the glass of the window, but we do
see Clyde grow confused, excuse himself and come out onto
the street again.
With quick steps Clyde makes his way through the noisy, busy
streets. The lights are now lit. Gleams of light appear from
the buildings, as lamps are turned on, illuminating the
various signs, advertisements and illustrations in the shops.
In the background is an enormous advertisement for milk, the
huge, laughing head of a child. Clyde stops before it,
thinking where to go. He looks around him -- on the roof of a
tall building a children's jelly is being advertised.
As though feeling pursued by all these advertisements and
signs, Clyde retreats into a dark alley. He still walks
slowly, not knowing where he should turn. He has to stop at
the corner of the street to let a heavy truck pass by, and
as the truck passes, he notices that he is facing an obscure
little drug store. Something, perhaps a man-of-the-world air
in the bearing of the druggist, inspires him with confidence.
An expression of resolution comes into his face, and he
An ambulance with its red cross and long whining siren
dashes through the little street. The whine of the siren
Clyde comes out of the drug store; as soon as he has passed
from the view of the druggist he thrusts a small packet that
he is holding deep into his coat pocket. He looks happier
and his walk is firmer. He goes back through the streets he
has passed, his hand firmly gripping the package inside his
It is late. The lights fade, and in the growing darkness the
laughing posters of the children are no longer visible.
Clyde goes into Roberta's room. She is so frightened and
worried over what has befallen her that she no longer pays
any attention to her looks. She is untidy, dressed in a
provincial-looking dressing gown and her movements are
bewildered and absent-minded. Clyde opens up the package,
and takes out a bottle from it. Roberta snatches it from his
hands, lifts it to the light, and reads the instructions on
it. "We must hope that it will all plan itself out," Clyde
says. They arrange that the following day, on his way to the
factory, he will pass Roberta's house, and if everything
works out well, she will raise the blinds, if not, the
blinds will only be drawn halfway. He kisses her, but his
tender words are only mumbled.
"Oh, Clyde, Clyde!" Roberta cries, as she is left alone.
A Clyde who now appears much relieved enters his own room,
to find waiting for him on his table several small packages
from a smart shop. He reads an accompanying note from
Sondra, her good wishes and greetings. These parcels she has
sent him in token of their friendship, and in them he finds
the smartest ties, and dainty handkerchiefs to be worn in
Roberta is lying on the couch in her room. Her cheeks have
fallen in -- the pupils of her eyes have grown immensely
large -- her face is as white as linen -- there are deep
blue circles under her eyes and the lips are parched.
Suffering terrible pain, Roberta lies there on the couch.
The blinds of Roberta's room are drawn only halfway.
And Clyde stands looking at them on the other side of the
street in horror and consternation.
The blinds are drawn only halfway.
Clyde goes down the street and stops at a men's goods store.
He stands for a few seconds before the door, obviously
nerving himself for a terrific effort, and suddenly goes in.
He pleasantly greets the salesman, clearly an old
acquaintance. Absent-mindedly picking out a tie, he lets
drop, as though a matter of little importance -- "By the way
-- I wanted to ask you about something. Perhaps you could
tell me. One of the workmen at the factory, a young fellow
recently married, is very much worried over the condition of
The salesman's face has grown annoyed; Clyde goes on, his
nervousness, which he still endeavours to conceal,
"I don't know why they always come to me about such things
-- they seem to think I am very experienced --"
But Clyde's laugh rings false. The salesman continues to
smile with that smile that clearly covers annoyance, and he
gives an even greater attention to Clyde, who adds: "I'm new
in this city, I don't know anyone, and so I can't help him.
But you've been here a long time, so I thought you might be
able to put me in a position to advise him."
The salesman looks around him, then comes nearer to Clyde
and says: "Of course, I will be glad to help you, Mr.
Griffiths. Continue, what is the matter?"
And they start to whisper in very low voices, too low for
the words to be distinguishable. Clyde is seen taking out a
notebook, and writing down an address. Then he sighs with
"I'll tell the man not to mention anyone's name," Clyde says
as he thanks the salesman and exits from the shop.
Left alone, the salesman opens his eyes wide and whistles.
He is in possession of a fine piece of gossip and he knows
Stealthily, to avoid remark, Clyde once more enters the
house of Roberta. A lamp is turned on in her room. From
outside the window, we hear Roberta's voice speaking: "No,
Clyde, I won't go alone. I'm too afraid. I shouldn't be able
to explain anything to him. I shouldn't know what to do, nor
how to begin or anything. You must go with me and we'll tell
him everything together -- or I won't go at all. No matter
"Hush! Hush!" Clyde is heard to say, and then the words
And indistinctly, maybe from one of the top floors, are
heard the feeble cries of a sick child. The child moans
pitifully. And against the light of the room lamp of
Roberta, Clyde's silhouette is seen as he pulls down the
blinds, and it grows dark all round.
Roberta is half lying on the bed. Clyde sits opposite her on
the couch. Pale, thin, Roberta stares at the light of the
lamp, and says slowly: "I'll let you go." But, having said
this, she is unable longer to restrain herself and large
tears trickle down her wan face.
In the painful pause that follows we hear that someone is
walking down the corridor, shuffling in bedroom slippers.
Doors creak and we hear that an attempt is being made to
soothe the child. Roberta turns off the light. A pause.
In the darkness, they continue their conversation. She must
not be a drag on him, Roberta says, she is ready to face it
and afterwards she will try to make her way alone in the
world. Not quite alone, says Clyde, he will earn more money
and be able to help her. No, says Roberta, she knows it will
be alone and she is ready. But what if the doctor be
Again they hear the wailing of the sick child, a monotonous,
low wail and sit silent, staring unseeing.
And they still stare unseeing, but now they travel in a
streetcar, and their stare is at the blank unreflecting
windows, behind which lies the town in darkness.
"Did you find out where the streetcar stops -- we won't have
to walk far?" asks Roberta.
"It's quite near. A quarter of a mile, not more," answers
An atmosphere of misery surrounds them as they sit in the
streetcar. That cold and cut-off feeling of being the only
passengers in a streetcar passing through dark and isolated
streets. The hoarse clanging of the streetcar bell.
"Is he old or young -- do you know?" asks Roberta. Clyde
shakes his head.
"It would be easier for me if he were old."
They are silent again. Again the coldness and the enervating
clanging of the bell.
"Oh," moans Roberta, "if only the doctor is willing."
The streetcar passes into the darkness.
Roberta is seated in the depths of a huge armchair in the
doctor's room. Through the half-opened door of his
consulting room the doctor and his family can be seen
finishing a copious dinner. Roberta is nervous. Now the
doctor is washing his hands in an adjoining room. Roberta
closes her eyes.
The old doctor is in the room. He is absent-minded "What is
your complaint, how can I help you?" he asks. Roberta opens
her eyes. She makes as if to answer, then, abashed, drops
"Calm yourself, child," says the old doctor and, passing the
table, he comes and sits down beside her.
"Your name? Mrs ...?"
She answers: "Howard."
"Wife of Mister...?"
Clyde, nervously walking up and down the pavement, before
the doctor's railing. He stops, bites his lips, rubs his
hands and nervously looks up at the house.
The doctor stands in the centre of the room, and says to the
"To start with, my conscience will not permit me to comply
with your request. Secondly, such an operation is dangerous
from a medical point of view, without even taking into
consideration that I should be breaking our State laws as
well as ethical laws ...."
With an effort Roberta stands erect, she presses her hands
together in anguish.
"You do not understand! You do not understand!" Roberta
says, trying to keep her tears back. "I told you an untruth,
I have no husband; it must be done, it must be done!"
Clyde feels as though he had been lashed by a whip; he slips
behind some shrubs with panicky, quick movements, as he sees
an automobile pass by.
The doctor's door slowly opens, and Roberta, broken by his
refusal, comes out. Mechanically she goes out into the
street and goes past the shrubs behind which Clyde is
concealed. He watches her, and from the way she is walking,
and the expression of her face, he realises what has
happened. But he dare not leave his hiding place, because of
the cars passing down the street, and the pedestrians on the
Roberta, as though hypnotised, goes further and further down
the street, unseeingly, having forgotten about Clyde.
When the street empties, Clyde runs after her and joins her
at a deserted spot.
At his question, Roberta only shakes her head, and wipes the
tears from her eyes. Completely bewildered and helpless,
they both stand there.
"You can leave me after, but now -- you have to help me --
you have to --"
And she starts to cry again. Clyde does not answer, and
merely drops his head. Roberta is wringing her hands, she
shakes her head and continues pitifully:
"Oh, don't you see, I can't be alone with a child on my
hands, and no husband!"
And around them, a new spring. Over the factory chimneys
appears a soft, full May moon.
They reach Roberta's house.
"You said yourself you don't know anything else we can do
and every extra day is dangerous for me. There's nothing
left for it, you must marry me -- right away."
Cowardly, and in his anxiety really sorry for her, Clyde
nods his head in confirmation of her words. In agony of
realisation he closes his eyes.
His eyes closed, standing alone in another place, on another
street, Clyde nods his head.
In a ravine, near the road, a miserable, half-fallen-in,
poor farmer's house.
An old woman is washing the laundry by the porch of this
house; behind the open window Roberta finishes a hat she has
been making. She tries it on, and talks to the old woman:
"What would you say, mother, if I suddenly got married?"
Continuing with her washing, the woman laughs at Roberta's
question, and shakes her head.
"Oh, now I understand why you needed a new dress. Who is
"I can't name him -- yet, mother. But I think it will be
"Oh!" says the mother, surprised and pleased.
And at this moment an old, broken-down cart to which a thin,
bony horse is harnessed, comes up to the house. "Good day,
Father," says Roberta.
"Hello, Bobby," answers a tall thin man, his tired worn face
smiling up at his daughter.
The mother leaves her washing and goes across the dirty yard
towards her husband. And Roberta, resting a piece of paper
on the window sill, starts a letter.
But when she begins to think, the happiness fades from her
face, there is sorrow in her eyes and for a long while she
looks through the window, her hand holding up her head.
Misery, dirt and poverty are to be seen through the window.
Darling Clyde -- It was hard for me to
leave alone -- as you know. But I am
trying to calm myself, and now that we
have decided everything, and you will
come for me --
-- is written on the sheet of paper.
Along the dirty glass of the window, buzzing, crawl flies
trying to escape into freedom.
But everything here is lovely --
green trees, everything is blooming.
And again Roberta looks with sorrowful eyes through the
window of the poverty stricken house. Among the darkness and
the dirt of the yard one thin flowering plant is blooming.
Several weak little trees are visible behind the fence.
I can hear the buzzing of bees in
the garden under my window.
Roberta whispers to herself what she has written.
"Bobby, you are wanted at the telephone," she hears her
mother's voice from the street. She runs out of the house,
crosses the road, runs into the entrance of a post office.
Excited, gasping or breath, she asks over the telephone:
"Clyde, is it you? Oh, it's terrible, terrible, Clyde. I
can't stand it any longer."
-- and, after hearing his answer, made in a voice of excuses,
she continues the conversation:
"Oh, don't be angry. Clyde, don't be angry. I don't know how
to control myself. But whatever happens, you must, you must
do what we planned, Clyde. I'll write you a long letter,
because it helps me when I write to you. Clyde!...
She hears no answer through the phone, calls him several
times, calls out his name, then, disappointed at the
unfinished conversation, hangs up the receiver and closes
her eyes, because the tears are rolling down her cheeks.
Slowly Clyde hangs up the receiver, and exits from the
telephone booth onto the verandah of the restaurant of a
summer resort. He is in white tennis kit, a flower in his
buttonhole, well-combed and handsome.
"Hurry, hurry, Clyde," Sondra cries out from a sports model
standing in the road by the restaurant.
Clyde's dark expression is replaced by one of pleasure, and
on the run he jumps into the centre of the car, into a group
of young girls, merry and bright.
Roberta returns, entering the door of the decaying farm.
As the car drives, it drives into a new dream with Sondra,
this time a dream of the joys of sport and the bright
outdoors. Swimming, dancing, diving, racing, shooting, golf,
tennis all are blended into a pictorial symphony that
matches with a symphony of music, laughter and the natural
sounds. And each is instinct with Sondra, and the
personality of Sondra, and contributes to her growing charm
for Clyde. Each scene, also, occasions some opportunity for
intimacy. Now, on a tennis court, 15-love, 30-love, 40-love
rings out, the syllable of "love" accentuated. Now he is
pleading with her, on the crests of the waves, as they swim
side by side, to run away with him, now immediately and,
though she refuses, the coquetry of her refusal chases the
gloom from his eyes.
Ever the composition of the symphony rises, increasing their
intimacy, and at last, as final movement, they are once more
in a car, and we see flash past a white roadster, in the
front seats Clyde and Sondra.
In the back seats is a group of laughing young people. The
car stops at a crossroads, and Sondra asks Clyde to find out
the road from someone.
Clyde goes down into the ravine, to a miserable, dilapidated
house; on the post in front of it he sees the proprietor's
name written in printed capitals TITUS ALDEN on a small
Clyde is scared, hesitates and is about to flee, but
Roberta's father comes up to him and asks him how he can be
"How can we get to Twelfth Lake?" Clyde asks hurriedly,
impatient to retreat.
And the sickly old man starts a long, slow, detailed
explanation. And Clyde, barely hearing him, sees the pitiful
ruins of the old house, and then, averting his head from it,
he sees at the crossroads the dazzling car, and the laughing
Without waiting to hear the end from Alden, he runs back to
the car, white and with compressed lips. He is anxious, and
his hand trembles as he points the way, and Sondra surprised
at his alarm quickly starts up the car.
The car, with a roaring of its powerful engine, flies past
the house. The father stamps heavily in. Roberta looks up
from her letter and asks casually:
"Father, who was it?"
"I don't know, Bobby. Some rich no-accounts who lost their
The sound of the engine fades as the car recedes ever
Clyde throws open the door of his rooms. He is still white,
still worried, still distressed. He goes up to the table and
sees on it a letter, in Roberta's handwriting.
Annoyed and without pleasure he opens the envelope, and
turns immediately to the last lines:
We must get married. I insist on it. I
have the right to. You have allowed all
this time to pass in silence and unless
I hear from you before noon Friday all
your friends shall know how you have
treated me. But I will not wait and suffer
one hour more.
Dazed, he stares at the letter, then lets his head drop
forward onto it, his eyes closed.
Then he raises his head again. His hands pull the letter
And as it moves it discloses a newspaper that lay beneath
it. Immediately in front of him is the paragraph:
ACCIDENTAL DOUBLE TRAGEDY AT LAKE PASS
UPTURNED CANOE AND FLOATING HATS REVEAL
PROBABLE LOSS OF TWO LIVES.
He reads it at first mechanically, without comprehending.
The girl's body has been found but remains unidentified.
The second victim has not yet been recovered. Fifteen
years ago in this spot a similar accident occurred, but the
body of the man was never found.
Clyde finishes reading the article, throws the paper off the
table, turns out the lamp, and sits wearily down on the
couch. And suddenly he hears a whisper:
"And what if Roberta and you --"
And in the dark corner, he imagines he sees an overset boat.
Jumping up, Clyde turns on the light.
He sits down on the couch again, nervous and shivering, he
picks up the paper he had thrown away and rereads the
article. And while he is rereading it with wide-open eyes,
the whisper from afar gradually creeps up till it forms the
In a strange, gradual way the phrase spoken by the whisper
forms and forms until at last it pronounces and repeats the
whole word: "KILL! KILL!"
And from this moment the action begins to work along the
line of the thoughts of a distracted man, leaping from one
fact to another, suddenly stopping -- departing from sane
logic, distorting the real union between things and sounds;
all on the background of the insistent and infinite
repetition of scraps of the description in the newspaper.
In this scene, in which the idea of murder is born to Clyde,
he acts separately from the background, which keeps changing
after him, either dashing in a mad tempo when the background
is slow, then falling when there is no reason to fall, then
unsteady on a rock, then transformed into stone-like
motionlessness in the midst of a busy street.
With the aid of the technical use of transparencies this
effect of an inharmony between the actions of Clyde and his
surroundings can be attained. Around him is first his room,
then a street in busy movement, or the lake, or the mean
dwelling of Roberta, or the summer residence of Sondra at
Twelfth Lake, or the machines in the factory, or running
trains, or the stormy sea, in each setting of which he
moves, his movements being discordant with the scene.
And the same with the sounds. These are likewise distorted,
and a whisper becomes the whistle of a storm, and the storm
cries out "Kill", or the whistle of the storm becomes the
movement of the street, the wheels of a streetcar, the cries
of a crowd, the horns of motorcars, and all beat out the
word: "Kill! Kill!" And the street noises become the roar
of the factory machines, and the machines also roar out
Or the roar of the machines descends to a low whisper and
it whispers again: "Kill! Kill!" And at this moment a
pleasant, unemotional voice slowly reads the newspaper
article: Fifteen years ago a similar accident occurred, but
the body of the man was never found.
And at the climax of this symphony of madness Clyde jumps
out of his nightmare, perspiring, dishevelled, excited. He
runs to a telephone booth and calls up Roberta. Through the
phone he speaks to her in a hoarse voice.
"This is Clyde."
He tries to put tenderness into his voice but in his effort
there is too much affection. His voice, through the phone,
sounds loving and soft; it seems unbelievable that a man in
his state of frenzy could be so kind.
"I'll come to you, Roberta darling. You must wait for me two
days. The 3rd of July I'll meet you at 15th Station at
eleven o'clock, and we'll go rowing on the lake, and we'll
get married, we'll get married."
And with trembling hand Clyde hangs up the receiver, and he
leans against the wall, so as not to fall, while Roberta's
sorrowful face lights up in trust and happiness.
On a small railway station, away from the crowds of people,
Roberta is sitting on her trunk.
Clyde is seen coming along a side street leading to the
station. He is walking slowly, carefully, making himself
inconspicuous behind the trucks of baggage, pausing behind
large baskets -- he sees Roberta and, concealed, watches
Roberta is pale and thin. She looks pathetic, and is
dressed in a new, homemade costume. Her hat is also new.
Clyde's face expresses both shame and dislike. Nevertheless,
he takes a few steps forward, so that she may catch sight
Roberta sees him. A happy look comes into her face and she
goes to the ticket office to buy her ticket. And as she
leaves the office --
Clyde approaches it, and buys his own ticket.
She watches him, notices his light-grey suit, his new straw
hat, the highly polished shoes, his grip and his portable
camera. And a feeling of pride floods her at the sight of
him. She smiles, and turns her head away from him,
pretending to be a stranger, as though she did not know him.
Clyde starts, because it seems to him that an old man in a
worn suit, with a bird cage wrapped up in paper, is looking
at him with suspicion, not taking his eyes off him.
Clyde's knees are weak, and his hands are trembling. While
waiting for the train he paces up and down the platform,
starting nervously at every engine whistle.
With a great roar the train pulls in.
Roberta gets off her trunk, lifts it. In her present
condition it is heavy for her. Besides, the day is very hot.
Clyde sees this, but, turning away, he enters the first
Roberta gets into the last carriage.
Clyde places his grip on the rack, hiding its initials C.G.
Roberta, smiling happily, sits down by the window, in the
The piston on the engine wheels starts to shadowbox in the
shadow of the engine on the platform as the train starts to
move. It leaves the station.
The wheels of the train beat out their usual rhythm, and to
Roberta they sing joyfully. She likens it to the rhythm of
the wedding march. She smiles up at the sun, the fields,
the rivulets that fly past.
Clyde is sitting in a dark corner of the compartment. He is
quite near the engine, and its roar, its hiss and the chime
of its bells fill him with dread -- their sounds appear dark
and sinister to him -- and in their rhythm he can only hear
the awful word "Kill -- Kill --"
The rhythm of the wedding march, the joyous beat, struggles
with the rhythm of death. "Kill -- Kill --" beats the engine
to Clyde. Full of hope is the rhythm to Roberta. The
conflict rises, the tension grows faster, faster -- until,
A long and piercing whistle of the engine.
The rhythm ceases and the train stops at a station. Clyde
gets out of the first carriage. Roberta gets out of the last
By different paths they leave the station, and meet in a
deserted alley, where there are no passers-by.
Clyde smiles, and the artificial, difficult smile makes his
face look like a mask.
Roberta is radiant, and trustingly she approaches him. "We
could get married here. There's a mission down the street.
What do you think?" asks Roberta.
And Clyde listens to her, and in listening he hears the
voice of the preacher at the mission. The cadences intoned
are as the singsong of the mission of his youth, and as he
listens it changes to the singing of a hymn, and the thin
voices of bystanders take it up as in his youth, and this
fills him at once with a great shame and disgust and the
desire to move further away.
"No, let's wait till Sharon, after we've been to the lakes,"
And Roberta is so happy she does not think of opposing him,
nor does his conduct seem peculiar to her, and she follows
A large bus is travelling along a wooded road, it slows
down at the turns and enters second gear as it goes up the
Roberta and Clyde are sitting side by side in the bus.
Roberta is bright with joy and, even in her simple costume,
looks like a bride on her way to the altar.
Clyde's face is also smiling, but his knees tremble and he
is unable to calm himself.
The bus conductor approaches with the tickets. Clyde
purchases two, exactly counting his money.
The bus plunges into a deep forest. Its wheels cross the
quick-running streams, its noise frightens the young rabbits
and chipmunks as they run across the road, its horn echoes
loud in the forest.
The bus conductor asks him: "First time here?"
But Clyde, in his nervousness, is unable to answer.
"Yes, we're here for the first time," Roberta answers for
"Going to the lake at Big Bittern?" asks the conductor.
And suddenly Clyde breaks into the conductor's question,
apparently for no reason at all. "Tell me, are there many
people there today?"
And, having asked this strange question, Clyde, embarrassed,
does not hear the conductor's answer to it.
The surface of Big Bittern.
Pools of the inky black surface of the silent water. The
dark reflection of the pines.
Boats trembling on the motionless surface of the water.
Their gunwales against a rude landing stage at the foot of
steps rising to the small hotel. The beautiful panorama of
Standing by the landing stage are Clyde and Roberta. They
have just descended from the bus.
"How pretty -- how beautiful it is!" exclaims Roberta.
Suddenly the hotel proprietor appears from behind the bus.
Sprung into view as if by magic, he busily praises the
weather, greets his guests.
Clyde notices that there are few people about and none to be
seen upon the lake. Too late, he notices that the proprietor,
praising his kitchen, has taken his grip from him and that
Roberta is following the proprietor into the hotel. He makes
a movement as if to get the grip back, but thinks better of
it, and with a strange, hypnotised step, follows them.
Open, the white pages of the hotel register stare
threateningly at him.
Clyde grows paler; setting himself, he signs a fictitious
name -- Carl Golden -- keeping his initials (C.G.) and
adding and wife. Roberta, noting this, feels a pang of joy
that she hides before those in the hotel.
"It's very hot. I'll leave my hat and jacket here -- we'll
be coming back early," says Roberta and she leaves both on a
hanger in the hall.
Losing his head and ignoring these incidents, Clyde takes
his grip from the surprised proprietor and goes towards the
boat stand. As he places the grip in a boat, he explains to
the man: "We have our lunch in it."
Too preoccupied to note a remark by the boatman, he helps
Roberta in and, taking hold of the oars, pulls off from the
Thick pine forests line the shore, and behind them are to
be seen the tops of the hills.
The water of the lake is calm and dark.
"What peace, what tranquillity" -- says Roberta.
Rowing, then stopping, Clyde listens to this silence, looks
about him. There is no one around.
As the boat glides into the darkness of the lake, so Clyde
glides into the darkness of his thoughts. Two voices
struggle with him -- one: "Kill -- kill!" the echo of his
dark resolve, the frantic cry of all his hopes of Sondra and
society; the other: "Don't -- don't kill!" the expression of
his weakness and his fears, of his sadness for Roberta and
his shame before her. In the scenes that follow, these
voices ripple in the waves that lap from the oars against
the boat; they whisper in the beating of his heart; they
comment, underscoring, upon the memories and alarums that
pass through his mind; each ever struggling with the other
for mastery, first one dominating, then weakening before the
onset of its rival.
They murmur as he pauses on his oars to ask: "Did you speak
to anyone in the hotel?"
"No. Why do you ask?"
"Nothing. I thought maybe you might have met someone."
The voices shudder as Roberta smiles and shakes her head in
answer, playfully letting her hand fall into the water.
"It isn't cold," she says.
Clyde stops rowing and also feels the water. But his hand
springs back as though it had received an electric shock.
As he photographs her, they preoccupy him. While they
picnic, or pick water lilies, they possess him. As he jumps
ashore a moment to put down his grip, they rise and torment
"Kill -- kill," and Roberta, happy, freshened by her faith
in him, is radiant with the joy of living. "Don't kill --
don't kill," and as the boat drifts almost soundlessly by
the dark pines and Clyde's face is racked by the struggle
within him, there rises the long-drawn-out booming cry of a
"Kill -- kill" triumphs and there passes through his mind
the memory of his mother. "Baby -- baby" comes his childhood
and as "Don't kill -- don't kill" rises he hears "Baby boy
-- baby boy" in the so different voice of Sondra, and at the
image of Sondra and the thought of all that surrounds her
"Kill -- kill" grows harder and insistent, and with the
thought of Roberta importunate it grows still harsher and
shriller, and then the face of Roberta now, aglow with faith
in him and her great relief, and the sight of the hair he
has so loved to caress and "Don't -- don't kill" grows and
tenderly supplants the other and now is calm and firm and
final. Ending the conflict. Sondra is lost forever. Never,
never now will he have the courage to kill Roberta.
And we see Clyde as he sits in blank despair and the misery
of renunciation. He raises his face from his hands.
An oar drags in the water. In his left hand he holds the
And Clyde's face is so wild with misery and so stricken by
the struggle that has passed behind it that Roberta crawls
anxiously towards him and takes his hand in hers.
Clyde opens his eyes suddenly and sees near him her anxious,
tender face. With an involuntary movement of revulsion he
pulls back his hand and jumps up quickly. As he does so the
camera, quite accidentally, strikes her in the face.
Roberta's lip is cut; she cries out and falls back in the
stern of the boat.
"I'm sorry, Roberta, I didn't mean to," and he makes a
natural movement towards her. Roberta is afraid. She tries
to get up, loses her balance, and the boat oversets.
Once more rings out the long-drawn booming cry of the bird.
The overset boat floats slowly on the surface of the water.
Roberta's head appears above the surface.
Clyde comes up. His face showing terrible fright, he makes a
movement to help Roberta.
Roberta, terrified by his face, gives a piercing cry and,
splashing frantically, disappears under the water. Clyde is
about to dive down after her, but he stops, and hesitates.
And a third time the long-drawn booming cry of the faraway
On the mirror-like calmness of the water floats a straw hat.
The wilderness of forest, the motionless hills. Dark water
barely lapping against the shore.
A noise of water is heard and Clyde is seen swimming to the
shore. Reaching it, he first lies down upon the earth, then
slowly sits up, forgetting to lift one foot out of the
Gradually he begins to shiver, the shivering increases, he
pales and makes a familiar gesture, that gesture that he
makes when frightened or suffering. He shrinks into himself
and hides his head in his shoulders. He notices the foot in
the water and lifts it out. He begins to think, and with
that, stops trembling. And the voice of his thought:
"Well, Roberta is gone -- as you desired -- and you didn't
kill her -- an accident -- liberty -- life --"
And then very low, tenderly, as if whispering into his ear,
the voice says:
And Clyde closes his eyes. And in the darkness:
Her laughter and her tender voice.
Clyde is feverishly clothing himself in the dry suit from
his grip. Into the grip he packs the soaked suit, and then,
getting up from his knees, he stretches to his full height,
standing in the rays of the setting sun.
The sun hides behind the hills, behind the forest. The
reflection vanishes from the lake, and all becomes darker
Through the increasing dread of the darkling forest, Clyde
is making his way, his grip in his hand. He starts, alarmed
by every noise, he is frightened by the cries of the night
birds, he fears the moonlight penetrating between the thick
branches of the trees, he fears his own shadow and the
shadows of the fantastic forest.
He desires to see the time on his watch in the moonlight,
but, when the lid is opened, water falls from it and he
finds out that it has stopped.
He plunges ever deeper into the thickening darkness of the
forest, when, as he stumbles from behind a massive tree
trunk, he comes suddenly upon three distorted gigantic
obscure figures of men.
Yet more suddenly a lantern flashes out upon him. In its
beam his face shows the extremity of terror, fixed with the
horror of the damned. A boy's voice calls cheerily: "Hello,"
but, without giving himself time to realise the lack of
menace in it, he plunges frantically into the brushwood.
The light is extinguished, but not before its movement has
given us a fleeting glimpse of peaceful creels and fishing
rods. While the trampling of Clyde's feet, the cracking of
twigs, hurriedly grows ever distant and more distant, as he
vanishes in the blackness of the night.
SLOW FADE OUT
The prows of motorboats. The prows of motorboats filling the
screen as they dash past throwing up clouds of spray.
Bright sunlight -- glittering water -- happy songs -- the
sound of banjoes and harmonicas -- laughter, shouting and
the sound of the engines of motorboats.
A small fleet of motorboats, with bunting gaily flying,
cuts through the water.
The boats leave behind them a foaming track.
In the boats are young people; in bathing costumes, singing,
On the deck of one of the boats Sondra is lying. Clyde, in
white, sits by her side.
Sondra's attitude is the incarnation of serene, carefree
happiness. Clyde is gloomy; weighed down by terrible
oppression, he is trying to appear normal, but his thoughts
Sondra sits up. For a moment she forces herself to be
serious. She says gently:
"You haven't been yourself, Clyde. All yesterday and today."
Then she bends forward and whispers: "I know why you're
worried. You're embarrassed about money. Please don't tell
me about it. Just take this. I've got it ready specially for
And she presses into his hand a small folded roll of dollar
Clyde categorically shakes his head in refusal, but Sondra
stops him by kissing him, and, profiting by the moment,
slips the money into his pocket. With an effort, Clyde is
trying to take the opportunity to shake off his depression.
They are engrossed in each other.
A young man playfully rocks the motorboat from side to side,
and water pours in over the gunwale. Neither Sondra nor
Clyde notices the water.
A shrill girl's voice screams out in mock fright:
"You crazy fellow, do you want to drown us?"
This sudden scream startles Clyde off his balance. He pales
and tries to keep his eyes away from everyone.
A young man calls from another boat:
"By the way, has anyone read yesterday's papers?"
Clyde becomes tense, he raises himself on one elbow.
The two boats run parallel. The young man reads out loud
from the paper. His reading fluctuates, as the relative
level of the boat fluctuates. "Two persons rowing on the
south side of Big Bittern were drowned yesterday. The body
of the girl has been recovered, but up to a late hour last
night the body of the man had not been found.
"Anyone we know?"
Clyde's head is spinning, the sounds around him grow chaotic
and only the throb of the engine accompanies the throbbing
of his heart. He lets himself fall back on a cushion by
"What has happened to my boy? Why is he so pale?" Sondra
asks of him, as she strokes his hair.
The two boats are joined by others that try to outrace them.
Happy shouts of excitement, and all aboard concentrate on
the effort of the race.
The first boat cuts into the sandy shore, and everyone on
board topples one into the other. Noisily, with exaggerated
complaint, they get into the shallow water and clamber
ashore. Boat after boat lands on the island.
It is evening -- and on the sandy shore a camp has been
built. Tents have sprung up -- great fires have been lit --
and the whole young crowd is merry and sentimental. The camp
makes one think of Indians and the flares of the fires are
reflected in the night water.
Clyde and Sondra are sitting together on the shore. They are
kissing each other and have forgotten all else in their own
happiness. They are part of a group round an immense fire.
The night is warm and this, combined with the warmth of the
fire, has enabled the party to keep on their bathing suits.
At one end of the group a chorus of gay voices is singing
an harmonious song, and the song re-echoes faraway along the
lake and in the surrounding forest.
And as on the occasion of their first intimacy, during the
talk in Sondra's kitchen --
The burning logs splutter, and numerous sparks fly up into
the air towards the stars.
The gloaming, the flittering firelight, the nearness of
Sondra, combine to lull Clyde into a sense of peace. The
echoes of a new song float across the lake and off into the
Sondra and Clyde kiss again.
Keeping her head near to him, Sondra whispers.... At last
she has come to a decision:
"I've made up my mind, dear. Come what may, we shall run
away, we'll run away together."
They stand up. Of a sudden, all his fears are reawakened.
Realisation of what the morrow may bring floods back in full
force. He stands cold, perplexed. Sondra leaning on his
shoulder, her arm in his, they walk over to the outside of
"Darling, says Sondra, and they embrace. Standing at the
door of her tent, a long embrace, clasped in each other's
arms and mouth on mouth. Clyde feels it is the last time he
will ever kiss her.
Sondra detaches herself and stoops into the tent. Clyde
stands still for a fraction of a moment, then turns and
stumbles frantically away, out of the firelight, into the
further circle of the wood. His strength leaves him, and he
lowers himself on the ground, resting rigid where he sits.
His back against a tree, in the selfsame position, sits
Clyde, sleeping. He stirs stiffly, his eyes open. A few
paces away, his back also against a tree, leans a tall bony
man with enormous whiskers and a large felt hat. His chin is
resting on his chest.
As Clyde stirs, the large man speaks. His voice is slow and
"Your name is Clyde Griffiths, I suppose."
And as he speaks he holds an enormous revolver gently
Clyde, rousing, looks desperately about him, at the paths,
at the lake, at the revolver and, after a moment's
"Yes, that's my name."
The man raises the revolver and shoots in the air. Clyde is
still. The man is listening. Faraway comes the sound of an
Two young men, bathing in the water at this early hour,
pause. One says: "Hey, listen to the guys shooting game out
"Fine, Mr. Griffiths. Excuse the revolver. My name is Kraut
-- deputy sheriff of Cataraqui," says the tall man.
He puts the revolver back in its holster and adds: "I have
an order to arrest you."
Clyde, inwardly sick, does his best to assume a surprised
and disinterested expression:
"I don't understand," he says.
A boat touches the shore not far below where they are
standing. A man jumps out of it. A thick-set man who knows
what he is about. Others follow him.
Clyde goes on:
"But of course, if you have an order to arrest me. I will
follow you, but I -- I don't understand."
The thick-set, energetic man has approached, he seizes on
"You don't, eh? And you don't know anything about a drowning
on Big Bittern, do you, or Miss Roberta Alden of Biltz?"
"No no," Clyde answers nervously, terrified at the question.
"My name is Orville Mason. I represent the law," says the
thick-set man, aggressively.
In a barely audible voice, Clyde replies:
"You're suspecting me of murder. I wasn't there ...."
"And you never met three people, Thursday night, coming from
Big Bittern, going towards the harbour three miles away?"
"No, sir, I wasn't there."
The attorney takes one of Roberta's letters from his pocket,
flourishes it in the air and waves it before Clyde.
"And you don't know anything about it, eh? And this letter
eh? Found in your trunk, among your belongings, in your room
-- you don't deny it's a letter from Miss Alden, eh!" With a
tremendous effort and outward calm, Clyde replies:
"Yes, I knew Miss Alden, I don't deny that. But I had
nothing to do with the drowning at Big Bittern, I wasn't
At this, Mason, irritated beyond measure, exclaims:
"Oh, very well then, you've decided not to talk, have you."
And to Kraut: "Take him away."
Kraut takes out a pair of handcuffs.
"No, you don't need those. I'll follow you," says Clyde
Kraut takes a step down the path towards the camp. Clyde
makes as if to follow him, but at the second step he pauses,
rooted. Mason looks at Clyde, then at the camp and sizes up
"Oho, so that's how the wind blows, is it? Too thin-skinned
to be shown up before his lady and gentlemen friends. Well,
there's nothing for it but to see if any of them know more
about it than he does. Take him to the camp."
Kraut puts his hand on Clyde's shoulder. Clyde struggles and
says, "No, no, you don't need to take me down there."
"Bring him along, boys," says Mason. Kraut grips Clyde.
Mason approaches and thrusts his face towards Clyde: "Well
then, suppose you answer some of my questions -- come clean
and quick, and at once, or down there you go!"
Clyde wilts and, his lips trembling, nervously admits: "It
was an accident, that's all. I didn't kill her. I didn't
turn the boat over."
Mason puts his hands on his hips and exclaims: "Ah, now
we're getting somewhere," and attacks him with a new
A sheriff's officer amid a group of young people in the camp.
The young people are in various stages of early morning
undress, some in sweaters after bathing, a girl in pyjamas
with hair uncombed, and so forth. Steam rises from cooking
utensils. The officer is explaining that they have come for
Sondra peeps out of her tent and overhears. She comes
The officer explains that the case is as clear as daylight,
there's absolutely no doubt about it. They have letters from
the dead girl, and letters from another girl too, which gave
them the hint to follow him to the camp.
Sondra's eyes are open, she is frozen in horror.
Just beside the camp, not far from where they stand, Mason,
and Kraut with his hand on Clyde's arm, are getting into a
Sondra screams: "It's not true -- it couldn't be -- Oh,
Clyde --" and, turning white, she faints.
The cry reaches Clyde, where he sits in the boat between two
officers, opposite Mason. At the sound of it, he shuts his
eyes and lowers his head.
There is a bustle of movement in the camp. A young man
beside the unconscious Sondra says: "Well, that puts the lid
on our party."
The boat with Mason and Clyde is small in the distance,
speeding across the lake. Within it Mason is still attacking
Clyde with questions. Clyde is still stubborn.
The camp is being dismantled. Tent pegs are uprooted, tents
are coming down.
A private apartment in the hands of the police. In a distant
corner of the kitchen, which has been transformed into a
temporary morgue, the presence of the body of Roberta under
an obscure linen sheet can be rather guessed than
distinguished. Two doctors in black stand nearby it, having
completed their postmortem. Titus Alden, the father of
Roberta, stands, in set and savage grief, against the wall.
Others are in the room.
One doctor says to another: "The wounds on her face were
not of sufficient depth to be fatal."
Then the first doctor turns to Titus: "Was your daughter
married, Mr. Alden?" "No, doctor, she wasn't -- why do you
ask? ..." And from the expression of the doctor everyone
realises that she was about to become a mother.
At this moment heavy footsteps sound in the corridor, the
door opens and in comes Clyde, followed by the sheriff's
officers and Mason, who goes over to the table. A gasp. All
those who were within the room: Roberta's father, the
assistants, the doctors, the secretaries turn and glare at
Clyde. A murmur. Titus Alden rushes forward and raises his
arm to strike Clyde, he is restrained. "Murderer!" he cries
Mason is examining the evidence like a wolf upon a scent. At
the sound, he half-turns, still intent upon his examination
and calls to the officers: "Take him out of here." The door
shuts behind Clyde and his escort.
Titus Alden steps into the centre of the room towards Mason
and speaks in a low voice, desperately. At first Mason has
his back turned to him, but as soon as he has heard a
sentence he turns and listens with marked attention.
The old man: "I want you, Mr. Mason, to punish the scoundrel.
I want to see him suffer as my poor child was made to suffer.
He killed her. I have no money to help prove it. But I will
work. I'll sell my farm."
Mason has risen and now stands majestically before the
father; speaking to him but in reality addressing the crowd
behind him, he pronounces: "Go home, Mr. Alden. I promise
you, as the representative of the law in this country, that
no time or money or energy on my part will be spared to
bring this crime home to the murderer and to see that he
reaps his just reward. And you won't need to sell your farm,
A member of the crowd calls enthusiastically: "You are right,
Mr. Attorney. You're the kind of judge we all need."
And several persons approach Mason and shake his hand,
saying: "You must have greater authority, Mr Mason. We shall
do all in our power to see you get it." Slapping him on the
back and encouraged by Mason's smiles, the people leave the
Mason is left with his assistants and detectives.
They go to a cupboard and bring out milk and sandwiches,
talking among themselves as they do so. An assistant says to
Mason: "This case will be the making of you Mr. Mason.
You'll walk away with the fall election for judge."
"You mustn't speak like that, Fred," says Mason. "We mustn't
mix up politics with things like this, but of course fate
can be very convenient."
He wipes his mouth and puts down the milk glass.
"To work," he says and goes out of the room.
Only one of the detectives now remains in the room. He is a
thin man with a lugubrious countenance. He approaches
Roberta, pulls a corner of the sheet off her face and
admires her beauty. He passes his hand over her hair, looks
long at it, and something like a tear seems to glisten in
his eye. With one finger he plays with a curl, then, he
severs it with a knife and tucks it away reverently into his
pocketbook. As he leaves the room, he turns out the light.
Gilbert lifts his head from the newspaper, curls his lips in
a sneer and says: "I said so -- I said so."
In the factory, the girls who worked with Clyde are reading
another newspaper, and in this paper is a portrait of Clyde,
and, in headlines, the news of his arrest.
On the tennis court, friends of Clyde's are reading a third
newspaper, and in this one too there is a portrait of him,
and the details of his arrest.
Gilbert, having read another article on the same subject,
hands the paper to his mother. She glances at Clyde's
portrait in it and hands it to her husband. He lets the
paper fall onto his knees and, turning to Mr. Smillie, the
advising attorney to his firm, says:
"What can you do about it?"
Smillie, a little old man, quiet with quick movements. Next
to him is Katchuman, important looking, in a frock suit,
with a dull face, and brilliantined hair.
The family conference of the Griffiths is taking place in
the hall of their luxurious home. Piles of newspapers are
heaped about the place, on chairs and on carpets, and on the
first page of each is Clyde's portrait, the family name
Griffiths and the dreadful word arrest.
Samuel Griffiths speaks, with his usual slight self-
"If he be innocent, he shall have every possible aid in
proving himself so, but if he be guilty I have no wish to
aid him in any way."
"As far as I have been able to find out, it will be very
difficult to prove his innocence. All the circumstances are
Katchuman rises importantly and, with the expression of
genius making a fundamental contribution to human knowledge,
makes a proposition:
"There is one certain way of extricating him from this case.
We must prove him insane --"
"You mean mad?" asks the frightened Mrs. Griffiths looking
"Yes, mad, if you like."
"No, I will never allow that. There has never been any
madness in our family, and we do not desire that there
should be!" says Mr. Griffiths.
Katchuman helplessly gestures with his hands, as he sits
down on his chair.
An awkward pause.
Then Smillie makes a suggestion. He points out that the
prosecuting attorney is running for office in the next
elections and is sure to endeavour to use the case to
advance his political career. If strong political opponents
of his can be obtained, they can be relied on to spare no
effort to discover the truth. And he knows two such men.
They are Belknap and Jephson.
"And how much will that cost," asks Gilbert ironically.
And from the haughty, ironical face of Gilbert --
-- We turn to the bewildered, harassed face of Clyde -- a
replica in feature but so different in expression -- with
bars across it, in the prison. He sits in his cell and, as
he sits, in some degree exposed by the light of the window,
a stream of curious visitors passes, staring from the
greater shadow of the corridor.
Different people look at him with different eyes. Some with
pity, others sadly, others smile at him, others again ask
him about his health, want to know his age, to know about
his parents. Some ask him what psalms he sings in the
evening, does he go to church, does he think of God.
All, all are selfish. Three girls titter and ask: "Was
there another girl in it?"
A psychologist taps the bars to make him jump and notes the
reactions in a notebook.
These constant stares and questions annoy Clyde. He
nervously and ungraciously gives his answers, turns away
from the pitying looks, and hides his head in his hands.
By the opposite wall stand two men. They watch the visitors,
listen to their questioning and, dissatisfied with Clyde's
behaviour, shake their heads .... They are Belknap and
Presently the corridor grows deserted, but the men do not
come out of their hiding place.
Clyde, seeing that he is alone, throws himself onto his
bunk, and is shaken with sobs. Now one of the men approaches
his cell, looks at him, gestures to the guard to open the
cell up for him.
The man throws away his finished cigarette, and, taking off
his hat, enters the cell. He sits down on the edge of the
bunk, and slapping Clyde on the back, says kindly:
"Come, come now --"
Clyde turns his surprised and tear-stained face to him. The
"Hello, Clyde, my name is Belknap. Your Uncle Griffiths has
entrusted me with your defence. You and I must be friends."
The kind words calm Clyde, and he stops shivering, rises on
the bed. The defence attorney continues: "And listen -- you
must be more courteous to visitors, it is important for
The second man has come over close beside the cell,
Clyde pulls nervously at his cigarette. Belknap stops him,
takes the cigarette away, and just as kindly continues:
"You must not smoke now, that also is very important. And
you must attend church regularly."
And like a father, he strokes Clyde's hair.
"And now, dear friend, tell me the whole truth."
Clyde turns his trusting face to him.
The exultant Mason sits in his study, surrounded by
newspaper men, photographers, artists and secretaries. He
opens the drawer of his desk, where two bundles of letters
are lying -- one tied with string the other with ribbon, on
them are initials. Mason takes the second bundle, puts it
before him, plays with the ribbon, and, having awakened the
interest of the reporters, says mysteriously:
"Tomorrow -- I will read these letters to you, they'll be a
The reporters, journalists and photographers rise from their
"And today," says Mason, "I will read you these."
-- and he takes a letter from the first package.
Dear Clyde, it was hard for me to come
here by myself, but it is very lovely
here. The trees are all green, and
everything is in bloom. I can hear the
buzzing of the bees under my window.
Mason's study disappears, and its place on the screen is
taken by the quiet home of Roberta's family. Her mother,
still more stooped, yet more bowed, is washing the laundry
on a porch as old as the whole house.
The same journalists who were in Mason's study surround
Roberta's mother, photograph her, sketch her, question her
and jot down in their notebooks her clumsy, peasant answers.
They are interviewing her for their papers.
Clyde's mother is singing a prayer surrounded by the
congregation of her mission.
And while we hear their voices, to the door of the mission
are seen approaching photographers and reporters. They place
their cameras, check their fountain pens.
The prayer is finished. The mother lifts her hands to heaven
in the last words of the psalm; as she does so she is
illumined and the magnesium flashes of the photographers
embarrass the congregation. They stop singing, and leave
looking suspiciously at the journalists. The newspaper men
surround the woman preacher, and rain questions at her. She
speaks of Clyde as of her good little boy, as of a child,
as of her son. From out of an old cardboard folder, in which
she keeps documents and souvenirs, she brings out old
photographs of Clyde in his childhood days, and as a youth.
The men are interested in a photograph taken of the whole
family on the street while singing psalms and preaching.
And as soon as this photograph falls into the reporter's
hands, a printing press is seen turning out copy after copy
of it, and soon thousands of copies are to be seen pouring
out of the machines.
A page of the newspaper full screen size is to be seen, with
this photograph in it. The newspaper is lowered, and Sondra
takes her eyes away from it.
My Clyde is a good boy is written in heavy print under the
photograph in the paper.
Crying, in tears, Sondra drops her head onto the paper. It
lies on the carpet on the floor, and Sondra lies on it. Over
Sondra stands her father, worried, perturbed and nervous.
"How could you write to him? Why didn't you tell us of your
Sondra sobs. Sondra can say nothing.
"A scandal, a scandal," says her father, as he goes to the
telephone, looks long at the dial and, while Sondra sobs,
dials a number.
Somewhere in the sleeping city in the night a telephone bell
is heard to ring. In one of the houses the windows are seen
to light as the lamp inside is turned on. And the voice
through the telephone can be heard.
"It must be seen to that the name of our family is not
brought into the papers. You have pull. Please see to this."
And another telephone bell rings over the city, and in
another house the lights go on, and again there is a
conversation in which the request is made that Sondra's name
and the name of Finchley should not appear in the case. And
still some telephone bells over the city and several similar
conversations. And as the scene continues, the houses become
more and more luxurious and larger and larger. The last
light is turned on in the house grandest of all, and from
this house can be heard the wanted promise.
Mason is pulling up the blinds in his study -- the morning
light pours in. The newspaper men are waiting in an agony of
anticipation.... Mason comes up to the desk, and takes out
the bundle of Sondra's letters. He unties the ribbon holding
the letters together, opens the first letter, with his finger
passes over the initials embossed on the letterhead, smiles,
with his eyes goes over all the tense, concentrated men, then
takes a deep breath in order to start the reading, but a
telephone bell interrupts him.
"Excuse me," Mason says, and he listens to the
indistinguishable murmurings coming out of the receiver. His
face becomes serious.
"I understand, I understand," Mason says into the phone.
"Yes, sir, it will be done," and, bewildered, he hangs the
"Excuse me," he says to the newspaper men once more, and
ties the bundle of letters up again with the ribbon.
The journalists look at each other in amazement, and Mason,
to get out of an uncomfortable spot, explains:
"I am sorry, but I shall have to disappoint you. These
documents, by instruction of higher authorities in the
interests of the case, are to be considered confidential,
and if they are required as evidence their author will be
named Miss X. Q."
and his hand puts the letters back into the drawer, and
Sondra's father sighs with relief, and the sigh is repeated
The summer residents are closing their houses, the season
has broken. Everywhere are to be seen moving vans, packed
with trunks and travelling cases. The shutters are closed
-- the gates are locked -- the blinds are pulled down and
the watchmen take their places.
Sondra, in a dark veil, gets into the limousine between her
father and mother. Along the wet rain-soaked road,
spattering mud, the car moves off.
The reporters come, and come up to the gates of the summer
residence, and look, disappointed, at the disappearing
cars.... The barking of the watchdogs is to be heard behind
in the grounds, and a large lock hangs on the gates of the
And the locks on the gates.
And on the lake, on the spot where Roberta drowned, it is
raining too. The detective with the lugubrious expression
is sitting in a boat, under an umbrella, watching two youths
as they dive into the water, searching for something.
Rain is falling in the village cemetery too, and, to the
grave marked Roberta Alden, its gears rattling and hooting
its horn, splashing through the mud, comes up a truck. The
workmen, in raincoats, with hoods over their heads, throw
out their shovels, and sighing and groaning get out of the
Along the cemetery pathway, their collars up and under
umbrellas, walking gingerly on the autumn leaves, Belknap
and Jephson approach. They are talking to each other.
"I don't believe this opening-up of Roberta's grave will
help in any way," Belknap tells Jephson.
"Yes, but we have to do this for the moral effect,"
interrupts Jephson. "We must do everything we can to
postpone the beginning of the trial so as to prevent Mason
using it to his advantage in the coming elections."
They approach Roberta's grave, where the workmen are
preparing their tools.
And on the lake, under the umbrella in the boat, the
detective sits and watches the diving boys. The despairing
youths dive in again. With tired eyes, the detective watches
the increasing circles of water. And suddenly, from out of
the water, a hand comes up with a camera in it. The
detective jumps up, throws down the umbrella, and forgets
about the rain. The boy swims up to the boat, and hands the
camera to the detective.
At the grave, under the umbrellas stand groups. The grave is
being dug up. Jephson, Belknap, three doctors, police
officers. The grave is half dug open, and from the hole
spadefuls of earth fall with a wet thud onto the soil.
Jephson and Belknap, against the background of these wet
thuds and the pit-pat of the rain, are talking.
Jephson has devised a plan. He declares that the safest
possible defence and the one that would best fit Clyde's own
suspicious actions would be that he had never contemplated
murder. "Listen," he says. "He goes up there with her,
frightened, and not to marry her or to kill her but to get
her to agree to go away."
With wet thuds, the earth is ever being thrown up out of the
grave. Jephson is eager, his idea allures him.
"But once up there, and he sees how sick she is, and tired,
and sad -- he experiences a change of heart."
Belknap is not altogether convinced. "Why? For what reason?"
Jephson catches him up:
"But why? Why? Do you want to know why? I'll tell you! He
felt sorry for her, see, and he wanted to marry her, or at
least he wanted to do the right thing by her at the very
Belknap is grudging. The pit-pat of the rain pours down.
The wet earth is being flung from the grave by the constant
motion of the spades.
"But it fits everything. First he wants a quiet place where
they can sit and talk."
"Ye -- es." This slowly.
"So they go out on the lake."
"And he begins to tell her about how he loves the other girl
but will marry her if she still wants him to."
"And she does want him."
"And he agrees."
"And she's so grateful that in her excitement, or gratitude,
she jumps up."
"And that's what makes the boat rock." Jephson looks at
Belknap whistles between his teeth.
"And now he could either have the camera in his hand or not,
just as we wanted him."
"I see what you're driving at."
"And then whether he has it or hasn't, a misstep or just the
motion of both of them causes them to go over and he strikes
or not, as you think fit, but accidentally of course."
"Yes, I see and I'll be damned," exclaims Belknap
enthusiastically. "Fine, excellent, Reuben. Wonderful
The rain patters, the spades delve, the wet sods and the
fresh-turned earth melt in the raindrops.
"Anyway," says Jephson, mopping his forehead, "I don't see
how we can find a better. That's his story and we must coach
him in it. It might get him off with twenty years at the
The doctors approach nearer to the grave, and look down.
"Good luck," says Belknap.
"This is your Bible," Jephson is telling Clyde, sitting with
him in the cell. "This is the list of questions which you
must learn by heart, and which you must answer the judge, as
I shall teach you."
He smooths the sheet of paper out on the bed. On it,
numbered, are the questions. Both bend over the pages.
On the edge of Mason's desk, stands the camera found in the
lake. The man who brought it, reverently extracts from his
pocket his pocketbook, and takes out of it the strand of
hair cut from Roberta's head.
He looks at the camera, he looks at the hair, meditatively
Satisfied, Mason is rubbing his hands together....
Roberta's mother is sitting on the ramshackle porch of her
house weighed down by grief.
In the empty mission sits the suffering mother of Clyde.
Roberta's mother looks at a picture of a young girl, happy
Clyde's mother is looking at his picture. He looks youthful
The attorney Mason opens a brief case, in which are lying
photographs taken of each other by Roberta and Clyde on the
day of her death and now extracted from the recovered camera.
He brings the photographs of the two nearer together, gives
a self-satisfied wink to his secretaries, hides the
photographs back in the brief case and pats it with his hand,
as he says:
"This will be a sensation."
In the autumn wind, the naked boughs of the trees are
trembling... it sweeps and whirls dead leaves along the
pavements... stirs the water in the fountain, around which
people are sitting... and on its wings we hear the cry of
newsboys yelling out their news, and selling copies of small
"Get the story of Clyde Griffiths, with all the letters of
Roberta Alden, only twenty-five cents. The whole murder
Before the court building, a large crowd of farmers, arrived
for the trial.
In the courtroom filled with people is Mason (the attorney)
and his assistants on their seats. The old judge takes his
place. A small fellow on the left side of the tribunal cries
out in a thin, little voice:
"Oyez! Oyez! All persons having business before the
honourable the Supreme Court of the State of New York,
County of Cataraqui, draw near and give attention. The court
is now in session."
The movement of the crowds quietens in the courtroom and
everyone becomes concentrated.
And the same little man gets up again, and pronounces:
"The State of New York against Clyde Griffiths."
Clyde as seen by his attorneys, nervous and hunted.
Mason gets up, and says:
"The People are ready."
Belknap stands up, bows gracefully, and says:
"The defence is ready."
Jephson bends over to Clyde, and calmly tells him:
"Whenever you feel weak or nervous, look at me, and do not
forget what I told you, and what you have to do, and what
you have to say. Look at me."
A crowd of people who have been unable to enter the
courtroom, is milling on the pavement outside.
"Full murder story -- twenty-five cents."
-- sound the voices of the newsboys.
A lottery bowl is turning, and hands are taking out of it
slips of paper with the names of the jurors.
-- a clerk calls out the name on the paper.
A small, hunched man, resembling a ferret, goes to the
jurors' bench, and sits down.
Mason, looking aggressive, in a loud voice asks Dinsmore
"How old are you? Married? How many children?"
The answers to each of these are mumbled perfunctorily.
"Do you believe in capital punishment?"
Clyde shivers, and the man, who looks like a ferret, looks
at him and shoots out with emphasis:
"I most certainly do -- for some people."
"With the consent of the Court, the People will excuse the
-- says Mason, who feels this is a little too emphatic.
The judge glances at Belknap and grants the request.
-- cries out the clerk, and a tall, dried up individual gets
up and goes to the jurors' bench.
"Who are you?" asks Mason.
"Foster Lund and Son, suppliers of cement, plaster and
But for Lund, the long jurors' bench is empty.
In the darkness, Mason's voice is heard:
"Gentlemen, it has been no light matter to find twelve men
who could weigh the marshalled facts of this astonishing
case with all the fairness and understanding that the law
commands. Gentlemen, this care has been dictated only by one
motive... that right should triumph. I have no prejudices,
And under his words, from out of the darkness, we fade in on
three persons, and by means of four cuts -- to twelve stolid,
"Gentlemen, the life and death of this man is in your hands."
Clyde shrinks under the gaze of twelve enormous, sunburnt,
Twelve huge men, looking as if carved out of wood, sit on
the jurors' bench.
Mason begins his accusations, speaking with importance. The
State of New York accuses Clyde Griffiths of having
deliberately thought out and planned the cruel murder of,
and of having finally drowned, Roberta Alden, daughter of a
farmer in the County of Mimiko.
Clyde looks out around the courtroom, and sees Roberta's
family. He sees the father, a sorrowful old man, he sees her
grief-stricken mother, and then suddenly his eyes open wide,
and his hands clutch the arms of his chair. He sees Roberta
sitting between her mother and father, a veil of mourning
drawn over her pale face.
"That's her sister -- that must be her sister," whispers
Clyde, stealing a glance at Jephson. Then, nerveless, he
drops lower in his chair.
"The State of New York will produce before you
substantiations of every one of these charges. You will be
given facts, and of these facts, you, not I, are to be the
Mason continues, and he starts telling his gruesome story,
bringing out the highlights in sinister and dreadful colours.
And under his majestic declamation, short scenes of what he
is relating flash on the screen. In endless contre-danse,
each is preceded by the stony face of its witness, seated
in the court.
Roberta's friend: And we see her watching Clyde and Roberta
float by her on the boat the day of their first meeting.
Roberta's landlady: And we see her as she thrusts her head
out of the door to get rid of the yelping little dog, the
day Roberta called out after the disappearing and angry
The three druggists: And their refusal to comply with
The haberdasher: And Clyde's consultation with him.
The doctor: And his lecture to Roberta.
The conductor of the autobus: And the questions of Clyde.
The hotel proprietor: And Clyde and Roberta are in the boat.
The three men in the wood: And the lantern flashing in the
A Chinese cook: And he looks from his tent upon Clyde and
Sondra's passionate kiss.
All these scenes pass beneath the accompaniment of Mason's
words, each taking on a sombre hue. A different lighting, a
different composition, and though to all appearances the
same, yet in the movements and in the actions it is a
"Not only did he kill her, he made her suffer -- long and in
dreadful agony. Listen to the documents that bear witness to
Mason takes out of his brief case a bundle of letters, and
picking one from them, starts to read:
"Letter No. 1 -- 3rd July of this year --"
"The defence protests against this illegal playing on the
emotions," says Belknap, jumping up.
"Who is leading this prosecution?" Mason wants to know of
Then Belknap smiles, and with a movement of his hands,
answers: "The candidate for judge, who will be chosen at the
approaching elections if he can make himself popular enough
at this trial."
Mad with rage, Mason interrupts Belknap and hurls an insult
at him and Clyde. Belknap at once demands that an apology be
tendered to himself and the defendant before the trial is
continued. There is nearly a battle, but Judge Oberwaltzer
forces them to apologize to one another. They control their
rage, and officially make the necessary excuses. The Judge
approves Mason continuing to read the letter:--
Clyde, if I could only die. That would
solve all this. And I have prayed and
prayed that I would, lately, yes I have.
For life does not mean as much to me now
as when I first met you and you loved me.
Oh, those happy days! If only things were
different. If only I were out of your way.
The sun sets. Its low rays fall through the large windows of
the courtroom, effectively lighting Mason as he reads.
The people, affected, wipe the tears from their eyes, little
old ladies put up their handkerchiefs, the old men are
shaking their heads in sign of horror. But all sit still,
keeping back their breath, giving way, as Mason reads, to
the sentimental mood which has seized them.
The sun has set. Behind the windows it is dark. In the
courtroom, the lamp under its big shade has been lit, and
Mason still continues reading the letters, which become ever
more and more pathetic and despairing.
And Roberta's mother, unable to withstand the strain any
longer, gives a low cry, and falls in a faint. The sister
and father hastily bend over her.
Mason, taking a deep breath, says solemnly and distinctly:
"The People rest."
He sits down -- the screen grows faint, and in the darkness
can be heard the ever fainter noise of the people.
And when the screen fades in once more, we can see slow,
flaky snow falling behind the windows, and this snow carpets
the roofs of the houses, the bare boughs of the trees, the
And reflecting this white snow, a ghost-like white light
fills the courtroom, and in this light, whiter than usual,
In a white, blank voice, the defence is finishing its
"If I were not positive, to the very depths of my being of
his innocence, I should not spend hours here trying to
convince you of it. He has been called a criminal, a bearded
man steeped in crime seducing an innocent girl. Take a look
at him, gentlemen, this twenty-year-old-boy accused of the
murder of a girl who, when he met her, was twenty-three. And
did he kill her? No! And again No! And in order that you may
be convinced I propose to produce before you the only living
eyewitness, one who was actually present and hence knows how
she met her death."
The crowd starts moving, whispering, concentrated. Everyone
And Belknap continues as easily as before: "Clyde Griffiths,
take the witness chair."
Disappointed, the people look darkeningly in the courtroom.
The whispering dies off and the crowd sits back.
And the heavy snow falls, falls evenly behind the courtroom
The thick locks of the farmers in the courtroom are silvered
Jephson starts to examine Clyde, asking him questions to
which he has taught him the answers.
"How was it, if you thought so highly of her at first, that
you could so soon afterwards descend to a relationship that
all men -- and women also --" Here Jephson looks boldly
round the courtroom -- "so justly deplore?"
A murmur runs round the courtroom at the hinted irony. What
a way to speak!
Trying to remember what he has been taught, Clyde answers:
"Well, I didn't try to seduce her any time, really. I was
in love with her."
Jephson: "Very much?"
Clyde: "Yes, very much."
Jephson interrupts him: "So -- you loved her, but did you
not think of marrying her, and strengthening your love by
such a union?"
"No -- I just only kind of felt that I never wanted her to
leave me," slowly and uncertainly Clyde answers.
"And yet so soon after this terrible accident you were with
And Clyde: "Well, you see, sir, she's so beautiful, ever
after seeing her I couldn't sort of think of Miss Alden in
the same way."
Belknap: "I see, you were infatuated by Miss X -- we might
The faces of three girls in the audience. Their eyes are
open wide, they sigh with sentiment.
Mason beside his assistants. He ejaculates: "So that's his
line, is it?"
Jephson: "And yet, in spite of the charms of Miss X, you
decided after all to marry Miss Alden?"
And Clyde sees how all the heads are turned upon him, how
the eyes of Roberta's father seem to bore into him. And
Roberta's mother, her eyes dry with weeping, watching him.
And Clyde, with difficulty, and a tremble in his voice,
keeping his gaze fixed on Jephson, repeats the phrases
learned so well.
"Well, you see, when we met and she was so unhappy, and
being together I sort of -- I -- I --"
"Ah, I see," says Jephson -- "a change of heart."
An elderly lady dabs her eyes with a handkerchief.
"Well of all the bunk!" exclaims Mason.
Someone looks round at him sharply.
The faces of several members of the crowd are relaxed.
The twelve members of the jury sit, stone as ever.
The snow falls behind the windows in soft flakes, and the
window becomes frosted, so that nothing can be seen through
And the window becomes more and more frosted.
Jephson is speaking: "Now Clyde, don't shade it or try to
make yourself look any better or any worse. This girl is
dead, and you may be eventually if these twelve gentlemen
here finally so decide." (Clyde shivers.) "Tell me now, in
the shadow of the electric chair, before all these people
and before your God, did you strike Roberta Alden?"
"I swear before God I did not."
A grim face in the audience relaxing in doubt.
"Nor throw her into the lake?"
"I swear it. I did not."
Sympathetic faces. A woman sobs.
"You swear that it was an accident -- unpremeditated and
undesigned by you?"
"I do," lies Clyde.
And even the face of Roberta's mother seems to show sympathy.
But her father is ever fanatical.
Jephson looks round condescendingly and announces:
"The prosecution may take the witness."
Mason gets up like a bull to the charge. There is menace in
his pause as he fixes his glance terrifyingly upon Clyde.
"Griffiths," begins Mason, in a firm and masterful voice,
"you told us just now that you had a camera with you on that
"I don't suppose in your truthful and honest way you
remember telling me at your first examination that you never
had a camera?"
"Yes, sir -- I remember that."
"That was a lie, then?"
And Mason's voice rises to a roar:
"So, because you lied then, because you have lied again and
again ever since this case opened, you expect to be believed
now, do you?"
The faces in the audience that had relaxed resume their
hostility with a snap. The faces of the jury remain stone
and impassive. Clyde shrinks and --
-- at that moment we hear a voice, speaking with sincerity
"Alone -- all alone -- Oh, Lord, help him." The voice booms
out louder, and we can see the building of the familiar
mission and the mother's heavy figure, praying on her knees.
"You are alone, Clyde, quite alone. I should be by you. The
Lord will not forsake us. You must have faith. 'If ye have
faith -- as a grain of mustard seed, Ye shall say unto this
mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall move;
And nothing shall be impossible unto ye.' Oh, Lord, You know
my madness and my sins are not hidden from You."
Full of faith, strong with a religious strength, big and
strong she raises her hands up to heaven; then falls face
downwards on the wooden floor.
The large and furious Mason comes into the camera. He stops
Clyde is afraid of him. Clyde trembles. He is pale and
sweating now, worn to rags. Behind Mason stands the
lugubrious detective. Mason turns to him, and the man hands
him the strand of hair that he cut off.
The strand of hair.
"Griffiths, you were intimate enough with Miss Alden to know
the feel and colour of her hair fairly well, weren't you?"
Mason passes the hair before Clyde's face. "Is that her
Clyde looks questioningly at his defenders, sees their
bewilderment, and stumblingly, says: "I think so. Maybe,
yes. I don't know...."
"Yes, that is her hair," roars Mason, "it came out of your
camera. That same camera, gentlemen," Mason continues,
"which he tried to hide at his first examination. And what
does this hair prove, gentlemen, tangled in the camera? It
proves that not only did he not try to rescue her, but that
he struck her in the face with it, before throwing her in
Belknap leaps to his feet and, pulling out a hair from his
own head and waving it, cries out:
"A hair can prove nothing."
Like a roar of thunder is to be heard the roar of the crowd,
a mocking, contemptuous roar.
Oberwaltzer hammers on his desk.
Mason comes even nearer to Clyde, and still more
energetically questions him:
"How much money did you have on you?"
"About eighteen dollars" -- answers Clyde.
Mason: "You are sure you had no more? Weren't you ready to
run away afterwards?"
Mason: "How then do you explain the one hundred and twelve
dollars found on you at the time of your arrest?"
In the courtroom is a tense silence of expectancy. And the
only sound is the wail of a rising storm outside the windows.
And in this silence, quietly, bewildered, Clyde gets tangled.
"I -- I borrowed them -- later --"
Mason: "Borrowed them? From whom?"
Again the silence and again the wail of the storm.
Clyde: "From -- from -- a friend."
Mason: "His name?"
Clyde: "I can't tell!"
Together with the howling wind, through the courtroom can be
heard the whisper of the crowd, from which one can make out
the sense --
"Got him -- Got him --"
Mason: "From whom?"
A new wail from behind the windows.
And suddenly Clyde grows bolder. He lifts his head, and
hysterically cries out:
"I won't tell."
"How dare you, you urchin!" Mason yells, and lifting his
hand, marches on Clyde.
Confusion, many rise up from their seats.
Oberwaltzer hammers on his table.
Mason subdues his anger, and businesslike, asks: "How much
was the hire of your boat on the lake?" Clyde, not knowing
what to say, tries to evade the question: "I -- I --
Mason: "The prosecution has full knowledge of all your
expenditures and thriftiness in money --"
Clyde: "Yes, my pay wasn't much."
Mason: "Come, then, remember, how much was the hire of your
A wearying pause.
The suffering Clyde tries to recollect, and cannot: "I think
-- it was thirty-five cents .... Yes, I remember -- thirty-
Suddenly Mason knocks his fist on the railing, and cries
out: "A lie! It was fifty!"
And turning to the public, he says:
"Get up, Mr. Sissel."
From the crowd rises that same boatman who helped push their
boat off the shore.
"More than that," says Mason, "You never even asked him!"
And again the mocking roar of the crowd echoes through the
Mason continues: "And why should you have asked? You had no
intention of paying."
"Ah... ah... ah...." is heard from the crowd, for it
understands the trend of Mason's questioning.
"You had murder in your heart!" dramatically concludes
And suddenly, from the back row of the courtroom, a hoarse
voice, the voice of a boxing M.C., cries out:
"And when will you finish with this bird?"
And another more thinly:
All Clyde's strength leaves him, and he drops back onto his
Judge Oberwaltzer hammers on his table.
The police run up to the disturbers, and the yelling, the
noise and the hammering die away in the
The interior of a restaurant. In different corners of the
restaurant three different groups are dining.
In one corner, Judge Oberwaltzer looks at his watch, he is
eating a vegetarian meal and has a book about gardening
propped open before him. In another corner are Jephson and
Belknap, and in a third Mason with his detectives and
"They've been hours on that verdict now," says Jephson, and
through the window he looks at the building of the law
In a smoke-filled room, twelve jurymen, weary, perspiring
and silent, deliberate on the verdict.
Mason is reading a newspaper while gulping hot soup, and all
his assistants and detectives keep showing him various
articles out of various papers about the progress of the
elections, carrying the news of the discomfiture of his
rivals. The lugubrious detective says: "As a matter of fact,
it doesn't much matter now what the verdict is."
Mason interrupts him, lifting his eyes from the paper:
"You forget about justice, Mr.--"
"That's right, that's right," says a second man. "We forget
we have before us no longer Mr. Attorney Mason, but Mr.
And in the smoky room where the jurors are, Foster Lund, at
the head of them, asks a man standing in front of him: "And
against all our opinions, you still maintain he's not
"Yes" -- answers the man --
--and the jurors whisper among themselves, pantomiming their
annoyance. And in this whispering, the phrases can be heard:
"Who? A dealer in hardware -- he's a personal friend of
"So," insists Lund, "you're positive?" And, slowly
emphasising each word, he continues: "Perhaps you haven't
considered the effect your opinion may have on your
customers...." Lund hisses the last word.
And, having understood the warning, the man becomes nervous,
plays with the pencil in his hand, and sits down.
Eleven focus their eyes on him, and under their gaze the man
nods his head in sign of agreement.
Then the supplier of cement, plaster and bricks goes to the
door, and knocks against it with his heavy fist. Three times
he knocks against it....
And the jurors rise heavily from their seats, and their
heavy feet move along the soiled boards of the floor.
And the echo of these three knocks reaches the courtroom.
And quickly feet are seen running along the parquet floor,
newspapers are flung aside, chairs are moved -- napkins fall
by the restaurant tables.
People are taking their places in the courtroom; it is
The pale Clyde, and his defence encouraging him.
Accompanied by newspaper men, artists and photographers, the
Judge, Mason and the latter's suite of followers enter.
The clerk majestically opens the side door, and twelve heavy
men stamp in. They come in soberly, their heads lowered,
looking down on the floor, and, seeing this, Belknap
whispers to Jephson:
"It's all up ...."
The jurors have sat down on their bench, in order to rise
once again. Jephson whispers to Clyde:
"Only don't let them see you're worried.... Keep going --"
-- and then turning away from him, he bends over Belknap:
"We might still get him twenty years."
"Gentlemen, have you agreed upon your verdict?"
"Yes, Your Honour," answers the foreman. "We find the
defendant guilty of murder in the first degree."
Clyde drops into his chair, and in his imagination "Yes"
sounds in his ears eleven separate times as though in
confirmation of the decision. Only the eleventh, a "Yes,
yes" as though from the hardware dealer sounds out of tune
with the others, coming a tiny bit too quickly and too
And by degrees, as the human voices in the courtroom grow
fainter, the noise on the square before the court building
grows stronger, and when, out of the doors of the building,
Mason appears, a thunderous "Hurrah" is heard, and greetings
are roared out by the crowd. Mason is carried across the
square on their shoulders. "Hurrah for justice!" -- "Hurrah
for the new Judge!" -- "Hurrah for Mason!"
And in an empty room of the courthouse, from whence the
joyous cries of the crowd can be heard, Clyde is dictating a
telegram to Jephson.
Mother, I have been found guilty. Come. Clyde.
And fresh yells are to be heard: "Hurrah for Orville!" --
"God is with you, Judge!" -- "Hurrah -- Hurrah --
A train pulls into the dark station. The lonely figure of
Clyde's mother descends the steps of the carriage. She goes
through the empty station -- the dark empty street -- the
The dark building of the prison. A lantern over the prison
gates, and the mother enters, and once again it is dark on
the screen. Out of the darkness appears a prison cell, in
which Mrs. Griffiths is sitting, holding her son's head in
her huge hands. Like a little boy, Clyde sobs, as he says:
"I -- didn't do it --"
And the mother's large hand strokes the boy's hand, and
tears well up in her eyes.
The barely visible structure of the prison building fades
out completely in the darkness.
And a train comes directly forward into the camera. And the
wheels are beating their normal rhythm, and its bell chimes
out in its normal way, but it seems as though the wheels
were repeating "Death -- death -- death" and as though the
bell were tolling at a funeral. And in a compartment Clyde
is sitting, joined to a guard by manacles.
The train stops at a station. Clyde looks out of the window
and a crowd of young girls and boys assemble, snapping him
with their cameras, bringing him bouquets of flowers, and
greeting him. The girls look at him with admiration -- is he
not the hero of a tragedy of love?
"Good luck, Mr. Griffiths." "Good luck, Clyde."
And Clyde smiles at them, smiles a boyish smile.
"Your mother will help," someone cries out from the crowd.
Smiling proudly in their importance, the two detectives pull
Clyde away from the window. The train leaves....
In the office of Belknap and Jephson. Belknap is seated,
Jephson standing. Before them is Clyde's mother. The
crudeness of her clothes has been effaced for them by the
earnestness of her manner. Jephson is explaining to her that
there are no funds for appeal. The Griffiths of Lycurgus
have withdrawn their support. She listens taking in only a
part of what they are saying. Then suddenly rises to her
"The Lord will not desert me. I know it. He has declared
himself to me. I will trust him and he will guide me."
In pagan astonishment and some admiration Belknap and
Jephson are taken aback by this evangelistic fervour.
Why not? Jephson strikes his hand to his head, and speaks
animatedly to Belknap. It could be done. Why not? The only
chance to raise the money. There are religious people,
people of faith, everywhere. Let her speak for her son and
take a collection.
"I am trying to gather enough money to pay or an appeal for
-- says Clyde's mother, turning to two men. She sits in the
small confirmation room of a church.
"I should like to preach in your church."
"We cannot help you," answers a grey-haired man. "Even if he
is innocent of murder -- there is the adultery -- that we
cannot endorse in our community."
Out of the doors of another church comes the sorrowful
And within two grey-haired women talk of her.
"Her teaching is suspicious. She belongs to no congregation
of any official church and we did right in refusing to let
"I am sorry, sister," a well-built Negro preacher says to
Clyde's mother. "Our church cannot give you its hall. It is
only for coloured people."
And, ever more discouraged, she leaves the room.
The apple trees are in blossom -- ivy is crawling up the
walls -- the grapevine curls itself about the iron railing.
The white flowers of sweet peas and the yellow of
nasturtiums crowd around the prison-cell window. The white
building of the prison is set in the midst of green shrubs
Again the moss-covered window, and behind the window, in his
cell, sits Clyde. He is dressed in the striped uniform of a
prisoner, and on his back is number 772. He feels his shaved
head, his sunken cheeks and trembles as if cold.
"Where am I?" -- asks Clyde.
And from the next cell a voice is heard:
"In the Death House, on Murderers' Row."
And Clyde shuts his eyes, and helplessly falls on his bunk.
Over the sign Burlesque Show, above the undraped figures
of women, workmen are suspending a cloth sign, on which is
A Mother's Appeal for her Son.
And boys in the street are handing out leaflets on which is
advertised the plea of Clyde's mother.
A sombre, serious crowd of people pass through the tawdry
entrance of the Burlesque theatre, pass the posters of
indecent, undraped women. And on the scene, with a
background of the Burlesque drops on the stage, among
plaster statues of gaudy women, Clyde's mother speaks in her
sincere way, her large figure in bleak contrast with the
She speaks with faith, feelingly, touchingly, as a mother
can speak of her son, and it makes the Burlesque girls clad
in their sparkles and feathers cry as they wait at the back
for rehearsal; even the electrician at his signal board is
A tray is passed through the congregation for offerings.
"What is this -- a church?" asks a merry young girl, coming
late for rehearsal, as she enters backstage.
"Hush," the others quiet her, as they blow their noses.
And when Clyde's mother leaves the theatre, she has to pass
a row of burlesque girls ready for the rehearsal. In her
hands she holds the bag of money, two girls break line and
ask respectfully to offer coins. Clyde's mother smiles as
she passes through the exit door and she hears neither the
cheap music, nor the hoarse singing of the rehearsal which
"Clyde," a voice is heard saying in the dark.
Clyde jumps off his bunk in his cell. "A note for you," a
voice says, and a hand gives him an envelope.
He unfolds the note. It is typewritten and reads:
Clyde -- This is so that you will not
think that someone once dear to you has
utterly forgotten you. She has suffered
much, too -- Sondra.
He presses it to his lips, runs up to the window, looks out
at the sun and repeats words that he said once before, long
"To live -- how good it is."
"Hello, Clyde, hello, son," he hears his mother's voice and
sees her come to him.
His mother forces herself to show no anxiety, she says:
"The Governor has promised to see us, son, and we have a
little money together, not much --"
He throws himself into her arms, and presses his head upon
her lap, once more a boy.
"Everything will be all right, Clyde," she croons, stroking
the head in her lap. "Everything will be all right. You
didn't do it. You didn't do it."
"Yes, mummy, I didn't do it." The warmth of her faith, the
tenderness of her protecting hand, her soothing voice
envelop Clyde. He is a child of years ago.
"You didn't do it -- the Lord will deliver you," soothes the
mother. "My boy could never think of such a thing."
Clyde snuggles closer. Gone is the tension of his long
ordeal. His soul relaxes. The comforting hand caresses him.
"I did -- think of it, mummy," says Clyde. And the mother's
caress slows, her fingers have become stiff and her face
set. And Clyde rubs his cheek against the hands that are
now of wood.
"But I never -- never -- never did it, mummy."
The door opens and Jephson enters. He speaks hurriedly to
"We must go now. We are due at the Governor's. Come."
The mother rises, she presses Clyde in her great protecting
arms and responds to his kiss. With a trace of absentness
she leaves the cell with Jephson.
"Good luck, mother, good luck," Clyde calls after her. And
once more Clyde goes to the window, Sondra's note in his
hand and tears of happiness in his eyes.
The unfriendly house of the Governor.
The great study of the Governor.
In front of a great desk stands the Governor compassionately
by the side of the mother. Quietly he asks: "Can you, Mrs.
Griffiths, can you from the bottom of your soul tell me that
you believe him innocent?"
She turns to him to say "Yes", but having said: "My
son ...." she stops.
Her eyes open wide as she hears the voice of Clyde, softly:
"I did -- think of it, mummy --"
-- and she closes her eyes. Her head drops on her chest,
there is silence in the room.
The shrill sound of a bell. The mother starts, opens her
eyes. The Governor removes his hand from the bell. He
stands on the other side of the desk. He is important, full
of power and unapproachable.
"Excuse me," he says, "but there is no reason to reopen the
case. God will help you, mother. My prayers go with you."
The door is opened and automatically she leaves the room,
but, as the door closes behind her, she comes to herself,
cries out, and turns back towards the door.
"My son is innocent," she says.
But the door does not open.
Darkness spreads over the screen, and at the same time, with
a fierce rattle, an iron shutter is drawn up, disclosing a
cell window. On the floor is a clean brass cuspidor. A soft
broom is carefully cleaning the space around it. The broom
is sweeping between the feet of the chair. And --
-- on these feet hang leather thongs with heavy buckles, and
from the chair onto the floor falls a shadow.
There is a heavy iron door in this room. And from behind the
door can be heard a song.
Clyde and his mother are singing psalms. In the condemned
cell, clad in black, sing Clyde and his fanatically exalted
And suddenly Clyde breaks off in his singing, and at the
knees of his mother he clasps her with a cry:
"To live --
I want to live!"
And through the window is the bright sunlit courtyard of the
prison, all in green and in flowers, and on it is heard:
"To live --"
And again we see the cell window, and within it is the
mother praying, and the camera receding discloses to us that
now she is alone, on her knees and singing; more faintly
now, but more majestically.
Slowly the heavy iron door closes.
And against the background of the spring fields and sky
slides from left to right the barred gate of the prison. And
from right to left the solid inner gate of the prison.
And the blinds and shutters of the windows come sliding down
and sliding down, shutting out the landscapes and the sky --
light -- life --
And with their closing, cease the trilling of grasshoppers
in the meadows, the singing of the birds and the sound of
human voices, and as the last sound is gone the last shutter
descends closing out the prison bars against the white and
there is blackness.
Blackness and quiet.
A sharp crackle and the sharp light of an electric contact
-- and again quiet -- again blackness.
Grey smoke rises against the dull sky and loses itself in
the quiet air.
A tall chimney, a roof; the camera descends past the windows
and balconies of a mean building, and the lower descends the
camera the stronger sound the voices of a little choir
In a dirty lane by a mission, surrounded by a crowd of
curiosity seekers, to the sound of a harmonium, some street
preachers are singing, as at the beginning of the picture.
There they stand, but now the hair of the mother is white as
snow, the father is old and ailing, and Esta is grown to a
sickly woman and, instead of Clyde, as small as when we first
saw him and resembling him, is her little seven-year-old son.
How long since you wrote to Mother?
-- says a notice by the entrance to the mission.
-- sings the white-haired, broken mother. Pitifully wheezes
the harmonium and the strains of "Everybody's happy" fade
distantly as the scene FADES OUT.
Unproduced first draft screenplay, circa September 1930
by S. M. Eisenstein, G. V. Alexandrov and Ivor Montagu